TVC baseball appears to be a three-team race

Tri-Valley Conference baseball continued a dogfight last week, with Gladstone (8-7, 4-2) and La Salle (12-5,-5, 4-2) hot on the heels of North Marion (9-7, 5-1) in the race for the 2013 conference title.

In games last week, Gladstone split with North Marion (losing 6-1 and winning 4-3), while La Salle swept Molalla (7-4 and 3-0), and won a nonleague game with Seaside 11-1.

“The week ahead will determine a lot,” said La Salle coach Mike Reed. “First place is still up for grabs. Anybody in this league can beat anybody. It depends on who shows up each night.”

La Salle and Gladstone were to meet in two games this week, with the Gladiators at home on Monday (April 22) and the Falcons at home this afternoon. Gladstone plays at Molalla (5-11, 2-4) on Friday, while La Salle entertains Estacada 5-8, 1-5).

“This week will be huge for us,” said Gladstone coach Clark Webster. “We’re tied with La Salle for second place and whenever our two teams play one another, they play hard.”

Errors nearly cost the Gladiators both games in last week’s two games with North Marion.

Gladstone committed four errors and North Marion had only one earned run in its 6-1 win on April 15; and all three North Marion runs were unearned in last Thursday’s 4-3 Gladiator win.

Zach Webster was the hero in last week’s win, plating the game-winner with a timely base hit in the bottom of the fourth.

North Marion went up 3-0 in the first inning, scoring three runs with two down on three base hits, following a Gladiator infield fielding error.

The Gladiators answered with three runs in the bottom of the third. Webster (2-for-2) singled, advanced when A.J. Swalko reached on an outfield error and scored on a base hit up the middle by Ben Fox. Following a second Husky error, Swalko skipped home on a balk. Ben Hunter plated a third run on a groundout.

Following a walk, Ty Breshears reached in the fourth on a fielder’s choice, stole second, and scored with two down on Webster’s line drive just inside the right-field line.

Breshears pitched a complete game, striking out six and walking no one, while scattering five hits.

Between Ty Breshears’ cousin, Brock Breshears, and Gladstone defensive errors, the Gladiators struggled all through the 6-1 loss to the Huskies. Brock Breshears struck the Gladiators out eight times and he didn’t give up a walk, while he scattered five hits.

Ty Breshears (2-for-3) was the only Gladiator with two hits in the game.

Swalko’s RBI-groundout in the fourth plated Gladstone’s only run.

The Huskies put that game away in the bottom of the fourth, scoring four unearned runs with two down on four hits and two Gladstone errors.

Last week’ wins over Molalla did not come easily for La Salle. The 3-0 win was still a one-run game until the Falcons put two runs on the scoreboard in the bottom of the sixth; and the Falcons spotted the Indians a 3-1 advantage in the 7-4 win, when they allowed the Indians to string three hits together with a walk and a hit batsman in a three-run third inning.

“Molalla is not a bad team,” Reed said. “They swing the bat and make you make the plays.”

Sean Hays (4 strikeouts, 4 hits, 2 walks, one hit batter) pitched the first six innings in the 3-0 win. But Hays began to tire in the seventh, when he put two batters on through a base hit and a walk.

Enter reliever Austin Vaughn, who picked up his second save of the week, retiring the next three batters on eight pitches.

The Falcons struggled with their bats until the sixth frame, when they scored two runs on singles by Hays and Sam Eichhorn and run-scoring doubles by Mike Duarte and Connor Shride.

The Falcons scored one run in the third on a double by Cam Young (2-for-3), a walk, and a run-scoring sacrifice fly by Grant Studdard.

Young was busy on defense, making six assists at second.

With the score tied at 3-3, La Salle went ahead for good with two runs in the top of the fifth of the 7-4 win at Molalla, thanks to some Indian pitcher control issues. Young, Vaughn and Studdard drew three consecutive walks to load up the bases. Trey Norton brought one run around with a one-out single and Eichhorn plated what would prove the game-winner through a fielder’s choice.

Two more runs came around in the sixth, on a double by Alex Tetherow, a walk, a stolen base and base hits by Young and Norton (3-for-3, 3 RBI).

Norton pitched 6-2/3 innings, striking out six, walking four, hitting a batter and giving up seven hits. Vaughn came in in the seventh with two down and the tying run at the plate and ended the game with a strikeout.

Reed referred to last Saturday’s 11-1 win over Seaside as the Falcons’ “first annual walkathon.” The Falcons had only six hits in the five-inning game, but Seaside pitchers issued 14 free passes.

Vaughn went 2-for-2 at the plate, driving in three runs and scoring twice.

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