They set a new school record for wins; they won a league title; and they gave it their all in a 6-5 loss to Sheldon in the 6A state final

by: PHOTO BY JONATHAN HOUSE - Clackamas coach John Arntson consoles his players following their 6-5 loss to Sheldon in Saturdays championship final of the Class 6A high school baseball playoffs. Arntson praised his players for a great season, in which they set a school record for most wins and won only their schools second league title in baseball. Arntson also thanked his players for helping him through some tough times, after losing his 7-year-old son in an automobile accident on New Years Eve.KEIZER — The young men on Clackamas High School’s baseball team left Keizer’s Volcanoes Stadium Saturday night with their heads held high.

They had given their all in a 6-5 loss to the Sheldon Irish in the championship final of the 2013 Class 6A high school baseball playoffs. And they were winners in the hearts of Clackamas fans, who turned out in large numbers in support of their beloved Cavaliers and of Clackamas Coach John Arntson, painting Volcanoes Stadium in a sea of Cavalier red.

The Cavaliers fell short of their goal of a state title, but it was a season of tremendous accomplishment nonetheless. Clackamas finished with an overall record of 27-4, setting a new school record for most wins in a season; they went 14-1 in the Three Rivers League, earning only the second league title in school history; and they advanced to the state final for only the third time in school history.

The old record for most wins was 24, set by teams that won state championships in 2008 (24-7) and 2010 (24-6). The first league title came in 2006, when the Cavaliers went 15-6 in league (19-8 overall), losing to Aloha in the first round of the state playoffs.

This year’s accomplishments are all the more impressive, considering the circumstances. Clackamas coach John Arntson lost his 7-year-old son Jake in an automobile accident on New Year’s Eve, and the team dedicated their season to Jake.

by: PHOTO BY JONATHAN HOUSE - With their season dedicated to Jake Arntson, the 7-year-olds positive mindset helped propel Clackamas High School to one of its most successful seasons in school history. The players carried the words that Jake said to his father John Arntson at the start of each day in their ball caps: Today is going to be my best day!“The biggest thing I’ll take from this season is just fighting through adversity,” said Clackamas senior co-captain Jarrod Switzer. “We’ve had so much this year. But we tried to keep positive, and we all came together with one common goal....

“We dedicated the season to Jake.... We carried little cards in our hats that said, ‘Today is going to be my best day.’

“Each morning when he got up, that’s what Jake said to Arnie [Coach Arntson]. He said, ‘Daddy, today is going to be my best day.’ It always felt like we had a piece of him with us....

“It’s something you can benefit from whether you’re a 7-year-old, an adult, or any age. Think positive and things are more likely to go the way you want them to go. I know it helped us a lot this season, and it’s something I’ll carry with me for the rest of my life.”

“We didn’t win the state title,” Arntson said. “But when they get a little older, these guys will look back and realize what they did was much bigger than winning any state championship. When they look back on what they did for me and my family, and for the community. They picked the community up, and they brought me back from the darkest place I’ve ever been. I couldn’t be more proud of them for what they’ve done. It’s bigger than any state championship.”

Defensive miscues

prove costly

The Cavaliers built their success this year around pitching and defense, but it was defensive miscues that proved costly in the 6-5 title-game-loss to Sheldon. Four of Clackamas’ five runs were earned, while the Irish had only two earned runs.

Still, the Cavaliers battled to the end and they had the winning runs on base when Sheldon relief pitcher Mike Ralston put the final out in the book.

Sheldon scored the game’s first runs in the bottom of the second inning and both runs were the result of Cavalier miscues.

Sheldon senior infielder Brett Nielsen led off the second inning with a single to left. Two outs later, Nielsen advanced all the way to third base when Clackamas pitcher Austin Kelly threw the ball past first base on a pickoff attempt. Nielsen then scored on a wild pitch.

Kelly then struggled with control, walking the next batter, Mitch Lewis, on four pitches. Sheldon senior catcher Gaje McDaniel followed with a base hit to right field, and Lewis skipped home when the throw from the outfield got by Clackamas’ third baseman.

Clackamas’ crowd then got into the game and rallied the troops, shouting, in unison, “Go Cavs! Go Cavs! Go Cavs....!’”

And the Cavaliers answered with three earned runs in the top of the third.

by: PHOTO BY JONATHAN HOUSE - Pinch runner Nick Krska beams from ear-to-ear as he is congratulated by teammate Austin Kelly after scoring on a double by Garrett Myers during Clackamas three-run rally in the third inning of Saturdays state final with Sheldon.Junior outfielder Cade Wilkins started the rally with a lead-off single to left. Pinch runner Nick Krska moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by Taylor MacClanthan, and Krska scored on a double to left by junior outfielder Garrett Myers.

Jared Bell and Cole Scruggs then drew back-to-back full-count walks to load the bases. Kelly lined a two-run single down the left-field line, and the Cavaliers were on top, leading 3-2.

Sheldon tied things up at 3-3 with a single tally in the bottom of the third. Junior outfielder David Bellamy walked on four pitches and senior shortstop Cooper Stiles followed with a one-out, run-scoring double down the right-field line.

Sheldon broke the tie in the bottom of the fifth, scoring three runs on two hits, a walk and one costly error.

Kelly got Ralston to line out to Jake Iverson at shortstop to start Sheldon’s fifth. But the next Irish batter, Bellamy, advanced all the way to second base when Clackamas’ second baseman overthrew first base on Bellamy’s ground ball.

With Clackamas’ left fielder playing deep, Stiles then hit the ball to shallow left, allowing Bellamy to score from second, for a 4-3 Irish lead.

Stiles moved to second on the throw home. Nielsen reached on an intentional walk, and Stiles and Nielsen advanced on a groundout. Lewis followed with a two-run single down the left-field line, and the Irish lead was 6-3.

by: PHOTO BY JONATHAN HOUSE - Clackamas centerfielder Garrett Myers goes flat out to make a snow-cone catch to end a Sheldon rally at two runs in the fifth inning of Saturdays state final.The Cavaliers got two runs back in the top of the sixth. Taylor Stinson drew a walk on five pitches and Iverson singled to left to lead off the inning.

Wilkins drew a walk from reliever Ralston to load the bases with one down. MacClanathan launched a fly ball to deep right field, bringing pinch runner Luke Burns around. Iverson also scored on the play, when Sheldon’s cutoff threw the ball past the Irish catcher. The inning ended with Myers’ groundout to first base.

Following two groundouts, Kelly gave the Cavaliers’ hope in the seventh, when he drove the ball to the left-center wall for a double. Following an intentional walk to Taylor Stinson, Ralston sent the next Cavalier batter down swinging, to end the game.

Sheldon pitchers Taylor Alie and Ralston combined to strikeout five, while giving up seven hits, five walks (two intentional) and four earned runs.

Kelly pitched a complete game for Clackamas, striking out six, while giving up five hits, four walks (two intentional) and two earned runs. He finished his senior year with a 9-2 record and a 1.49 ERA.

Stiles (2-for-3) led the Irish at the plate. Ralston, who entered the game with a .427 batting average and a school-record 46 hits on the season, went 0-4 at the plate. Kelly retired Ralston on a called third strike, a flyout to Myers in centerfield, a groundout to Aaron Ahlstrom at second, and the line-out to Iverson at shortstop.

“It didn’t matter [that I held Ralston without a hit],” said Kelly. “His teammates picked it up for him. They were hitting throughout the lineup.”

Kelly (2-for-2), Iverson (2-for-4) and Wilkins (2-for-3) had two hits apiece in the losing effort.

by: PHOTO BY JONATHAN HOUSE - There was plenty of emotion near Clackamas dugout following Saturdays state final with Sheldon. Above senior Jared Bell (4) receives a hug from classmate Skylar Schlunz, while senior Jarrod Switzer (18) waits to give a supportive hug.“I’m not happy with the game,” said Kelly. “But I’ve got to be happy with the season. We did our best, and we had one of the best seasons Clackamas has had. We just fell a little short.”

Arntson said, “I just want to say thank you [to the community] for what they’ve done for the team and for me and my family. I couldn’t imagine a community more supportive....

“We had a huge crowd. I looked up in the crowd during the game and saw people there I’m sure weren’t baseball fans. They wanted to be there to support me, and that means more to me than anything.”

It was the very first state championship for Sheldon, which last played in a state final in 1966. The Irish finished the season with an overall record of 27-5, after going 7-1 and finishing first in the Southwest Conference.

Sheldon and Clackamas entered the postseason ranked third and fourth respectively in the OSAA power rankings.

Sheldon advanced to the final through wins over No. 34 Canby (11-2), No. 20 McMinnville (22-2), No. 6 Crater (2-1) and No. 2 Roseburg (11-3).

Clackamas advanced through wins over No. 37 Sunset (5-0), No. 21 Grant (8-7), No. 5 Thurston (12-0) and No. 19 Southridge (5-4 in nine innings).

Sheldon graduates eight of the 10 players who started in Saturday’s final.

They’ll be back

tough as ever

Clackamas should be tough again next year. Kelly (pitcher), Iverson (shortstop) and Switzer (first base) were the only seniors starting for the Cavaliers on Saturday.

Seven juniors started: Jared Bell (right field), Cole Scruggs (third base), Taylor Stinson (designated hitter), Cade Wilkins (left field), Taylor MacClanathan (catcher), Garrett Myers (centerfield) and Aaron Ahlstrom (second base).

Others on the Cavalier state final roster were: seniors Ryan Gilbert (outfield), Curtis Powelson (outfield) and Skylar Schlunz (outfield/pitcher); juniors Michael McDonald (outfield), Josh Devore (outfield/pitcher), Zach Farnes (outfield/pitcher) and Justin Garry (outfield); and sophomores Nick Krska (outfield), Luke Burns (infield/pitcher) and Brett Peterson (catcher).

“I expect them to go out and do it again,” said Switzer. “They have all the talent. I expect them to make another run.”

“They’re gonna’ be good,” said Kelly. “They’re going to have another great year!”

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