Seven wins in their first nine games Ñ not a bad start for the Jesuit baseball team, which lost 12 seniors to graduation.

'We're athletic, big and physical,' coach Craig Webster says. 'And inexperienced. Not young, but inexperienced.'

The Crusaders opened their Metro League schedule by beating Beaverton 10-4 Friday. Heath Faulk and Joe Newman each stroked two-run homers, and hard-throwing left-hander Chris Siegfried improved to 4-0.

'I'm really pleased,' says Webster, whose 2003 team played in the Class 4A state final. 'We're a little better than I thought we'd be.'

Jesuit, which has dropped games to Lakeridge and Hermiston, would have to be considered the chaser this year in the Metro, though. Southridge and Westview are the consensus favorites. After the top two, it's Jesuit, Century, Beaverton and Aloha.

Jesuit's opponents will see plenty of left-handed pitchers this year. Southpaws Siegfried, Casey Puterbaugh and Slade Norris Ñ all seniors Ñ will get the bulk of the starts.

Only Norris, who also plays right field, and Newman, a senior catcher, return as position starters.

But Webster remains optimistic that perhaps the Crusaders can win the Metro. In addition to Norris and Newman, second baseman Tyler Bruss, third baseman Andrew Vancil and shortstop Abe Kaempf were on the 18-man playoff roster last year.

Kaempf (basketball) and first baseman Pat Swihart, catcher Jon Breuer and Norris (football) have been in state playoffs.

'They know the feeling of playing in big games,' Webster says.

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