Cavaliers may have the horses to bring home another state championship trophy

by: JON HOUSE - Speed demon Elliott Cary takes an extra base in Clackamas 7-2 season-opening win over Grant. Cary, a transfer from Florida who has signed with Oregon State University, had six stolen bases in thea Cavaliers first six games.It will be tough to top last year, when the Clackamas Cavaliers made their third Class 6A high school championship baseball final in six seasons, won their second league title in school history and set a school record for most wins in a season, finishing with a 27-4 record.

But the Cavaliers aim to do that, and they just might have the horses to get it done.

“We’ve never had this much team speed,” said Clackamas coach John Arntson. “[Senior outfielder] Elliott Cary can fly [around the bases]. He’s probably as fast as any kid I’ve seen. And [senior outfielders] Garrett Myers and Michael McDonald are nearly as fast as Elliott.... I kid them that if a fly ball hits the grass, I’m going to have them buy me an ice cream. I tease our track coach that we might come over and challenge his guys to a race.... And we’ve got other guys that are fast. It makes us more diversified offensively. We can score in more ways....”

Arntson says that his team went 25-for-29 on stolen base attempts in their first six games. Elliott was the leader, with six.

Arntson continued, “I don’t know if we’ve ever had this many guys with experience that are starting pitchers. I’ve got five or six guys I feel comfortable with as starters.... I don’t think we’ve got an overpowering pitcher like we did with Nick Struck, or Ben Wetzler, or even Austin Kelly. But we’ve got five or six guys who are awfully good.”

Arntson says he sees seniors Jared Bell, Taylor Stinson, Aaron Ahlstrom, Josh Devore and Elliott as strong starting pitchers, along with junior Luke Burns, who was the top pitcher for a very successful Cavalier jayvee team a year ago.

And the Cavaliers have the bats to go with their team speed and pitching. Their team batting average was .361 through their first six games.

Cary, due in part to his quickness, has had a phenomenal early season at the plate. He’s hit safely in 13 of his first 17 at bats for a .765 batting average, with seven triples, 11 runs scored and 10 RBI.

With limited at bats, Devore is batting .667 and senior Justin Garry is batting .577.

Ahlstrom sports a .438 average, going 7-for-17. He had a lead-off home run in an early-season game with Southridge. Stinson sports a .400 batting average.

The Cavaliers’ starting lineup will vary, depending in large part upon who is pitching.

Senior Taylor MacClanthan has returned to start at catcher, but he’s being pushed by Brett Peterson, a junior up from the jayvee. MacClanathan earned all-league recognition behind the plate last season.

Stinson and senior Cade Wilkins, both part-time starters a year ago, are splitting time at first base. Stinson garnered second-team league all-star honors as a utility player as a junior.

At second, it’s Burns and Danny Hoff; Ahlstrom returns to start at shortstop.

At third base, it’s senior Cole Scruggs and Hoff. Scruggs was a first-team TRL all-star as a junior.

Cary and Myers will split time in centerfield, where Myers is a third-year starter. Cary, who has signed with Oregon State University, is a transfer from Niceville High School in Florida, where he started for three seasons. Myers was second-team all-league in the TRL last season.

Bell is a returning starter in the outfield, where he earned first-team all-league recognition last season.

Others likely to see a good deal of playing time in the outfield include: McDonald, Garry, Devore and Wilkins.

Wilkins will also play DH.

“Wilkins is going to be in our lineup somewhere, for sure,” Arntson said.

The Cavaliers have had their share of success in early preseason, going 5-1, with decisive wins over Grant (7-2), Southridge (12-0), Whittier, CA 10-0, Pueblo West, CO (14-4) and Lebanon (10-0).

Their lone loss was in a 3-1 barnburner with California powerhouse Cimi Valley, during a spring break trip to Arizona.

“Our kids are excited!” said Arntson. “They know they have a chance to be really good. But they know they’ve got to continue to work hard, because there are a lot of good teams out there, and some of the best teams in the state are in our league.”

Asked if he sees his Cavaliers as favorites to repeat as Three Rivers League champions, Arntson said, “I don’t think I’d call us the favorite. Lake Oswego is also going to be very good, and I anticipate a heck of a series with them. They’ve got three starters on the mound who are as good as anybody. I will say that I think Lake Oswego and ourselves are two of the better teams in the state, or at least we should be....

“The key for us will be to just take it one game at a time. We have a very tough preseason schedule and it doesn’t get any easier when we get to league.... The Three Rivers League is a juggernaut. If you relax and take a night off in our league, someone’s going to get you.”

The Cavaliers have four games remaining to close out the preseason. They play at Westview on Thursday. They return home on Saturday, playing eighth-ranked West Salem at 11 a.m. and Roseburg at 4 p.m. And they play Barlow on the road on Thursday, April 10.

Their first league series is with Oregon City, beginning with an away game on Monday, April 14.

Clackamas’ league series with Lake Oswego is April 21-25, with two of the three games in the series at Clackamas.

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