Lakeridge boasts a large and versatile line-up this spring

by: MATTHEW SHERMAN - Cooper Webster returns for the Pacers this year and will be the squad's ace. Coach Colin Griffin believes Webster is among the best pitchers in the league this year. The Three Rivers League figures to be perhaps the most brutal league in the state for baseball this year and Lakeridge figures to be an extremely competitive part of the mix.

The Pacers lost some key players last year, particularly up the middle, graduating their starting catcher, No. 1 starter and starting shortstop. But a versatile and talented group doesn't expect to miss a beat this spring.

Lakeridge had 72 players show up for tryouts this year and the varsity squad is fielding 18 players.

With that large roster, coach Colin Griffin is excited about the different types of line-ups that the Pacers can feature this season.

“We might have a bunch of power hitters in the line-up early and then switch to a defensive group if we get a lead,” Griffin said.

To be competitive in the TRL, it's essential to have a strong pitching staff and Lakeridge has plenty of solid arms.

Leading the way as the team's ace this season will be Cooper Webster, who finished second in the league in strikeouts last season.

“I'm happy putting him up against anyone else's No. 1. He's a competitor and not afraid to challenge guys,” Griffin said.

Jacob Tipton will be the team's No. 2 starter after transferring from Oregon City last year and Mitch Maynes is currently slotted in as the team's No. 3 starter.

Also bolstering the pitching staff are Mackenzie Grant, Kyle DelFatti and Austin Ruffner.

“We don't have a ton of arms but they're all quality,” Griffin said.

In the infield, Webster and Tipton will trade off at shortstop depending on who's pitching.

“We've really been trying to limit the number of throws guys make on days when they're not pitching. It's been a big part of our offseason workouts,” Griffin said.

Lakeridge has a pair of strong options at first base in Michael Sheldon and Bo McClintock, both of whom are slick with the glove.

Clarke Smith returns at second base for the Pacers while Andrew DeMonico will man third.

Jack Daraee can play multiple positions for Lakeridge, backing up second and third and also filling in in the outfield.

Michael Kuhn and Ruffner will also see time in left field.

Graham Leib will see most of the innings in centerfield and is one of the Pacers' stronger defenders.

“He has a strong arm and can chase down about anything,” Griffin said.

Kevin Thomas, Mitch Mueller, Quinn Martin and Maynes will also see time in the outfield.

“We want our kids to understand their roles this year and we have a really unselfish roster, which is great to coach,” Griffin said.

The Pacers won't hesitate to use everyone in the line-up either as the team played all 18 players in a recent extra innings game against Southridge.

Lakeridge has also been focusing on each batter's approach at the plate and figures to be a dangerous offensive team this year.

“Our main goal with the guys at the plate is just to simplify the game,” Griffin said.

Lakeridge won a playoff game this year and hopes to continue that success this season with a postseason run.

“We're not in the building phase anymore. Out kids expect to win and the atmosphere has changed,” Griffin said.

The TRL figures to be brutal this year without a single weak link and a bevy of talented pitchers.

"You're going to be exhausted on Saturday after every series," Griffin said.

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