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Saints look to stay on top in the South

by: SANDY POST: FILE PHOTO - Mt. Hood CCs Logan Grindy puts a ball in play during a game last spring. The Saints are off to a 1-7 start this season.The Mt. Hood Community College baseball team has been the class of the NWAACC South Region for the last decade. The Saints have won eight of the last nine region titles and have been a consistent contender for the conference crown.

As compelling as Mt. Hood’s resume has been over the last 10 years, it does not include a NWAACC championship. The Saints advanced to the title game in 2004 and again two years ago in 2012, but they fell on both occasions. Mt. Hood began its campaign to stay atop the South Region and get over the championship hump on March 1.

The Saints lost some key pieces from last season’s squad. They bring back a few big contributors, but several freshmen will be called upon to produce right away.

On the mound, Clint Burris and Zane Bambusch each stocked 44.1 innings last season as freshmen. Burris recorded an earned run average of 2.43 and finished with a 4-1 record. Bambusch went 2-3 with an ERA of 4.05. Both hurlers will be expected to log major innings in the starting rotation this season.

Freshman Jordan Thompson will also be a starter and is capable of winning a lot of games for Mt. Hood. The Churchill graduate allowed one earned run in four innings in his Mt. Hood debut on March 2 to earn a win over Vancouver Island.

Behind the starters, Michael McCall and Joe Piercy give the bullpen quality experience. McCall posted an ERA of 2.13 in 12.2 innings of work last year while Piercy surrendered just three earned runs in 17.1 innings.

Freshmen Dakota Albrecht, Joe Miller and Evan Jones will add some depth to the pitching staff. In Mt. Hood’s first four games, Albrecht, Miller and Jones combined to throw 11 scoreless innings. The trio struck out 10 batters and allowed just three hits.

Mt. Hood has a few more holes to fill in the lineup. Cole Hamilton is back and will be a big asset at the top of the lineup. He went 4-for-11 with four walks and three stolen bases in Mt. Hood’s opening weekend. Hamilton has moved from second base to shortstop this season to stabilize the infield.

Aside from Hamilton, the Saints’ success at the plate will be largely predicated upon what the freshmen class does. Fortunately for Mt. Hood, there are a couple freshmen on the roster with power and the potential to lead the team in runs batted in. Outfielder Nick Gawley from Prairie, Wash. and first baseman Tommy Lane out of Pendleton are those guys.

Gawley hit a homer and drove in five runs for the Saints in their season-opening tournament. Lane too went deep with a home run while knocking in four runs. If those two continue to hit throughout the year, Mt. Hood will be in good shape.

Mt. Hood’s biggest challenger in the South this year could be a seasoned Clark team that moved in from the West Region. Chemeketa brought in a solid freshmen class and could also be in the mix.

The Saints play a two-game set at Western Nevada on Friday and Saturday and then they travel to Tacoma for a four-game tournament next weekend. Mt. Hood’s home opener was rained out, but the Saints are scheduled to be home for a doubleheader against Lane on March 29.