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The Madison High baseball team is making its case as the team to beat in the PIL this season. The Senators had an eight-game winning streak through last week and were atop the Portland Interscholastic League 5A at 6-0.

Madison (10-3 overall) has swept league foes Franklin and Roosevelt by a combined 48-3. Coach Eric Bennett says the Senators still have a tough road to travel, though.

“Cleveland (5-1) and Benson (3-3 going into Monday) are playing good baseball right now,” he says. “They’re going to be solid coming in.”

And Bennett is wary of Wilson (3-3 heading into the week). “Although they’re not having a great year, (Trojans coach Mike) Clopton is always going to have something up his sleeve, and he knows how to win baseball games,” Bennett says.

The Senators have been using senior right-handers Robby Heiberg and Austin Powers as their Nos. 1 and 2 starters. Heiberg was the PIL player of the year last season. He’s 4-0 with two saves in seven season appearances in 2014, with a 0.36 ERA, 51 strikeouts and six walks in 36 innings.

“Everybody in the league knows Rob Heiberg,” Bennett says.

The Senators have been going by committee with their Day 3 starter. “We’ve got some sophomores who are coming forward and showing that they can pitch at this level,” Bennett says. “Day 3 is sort of a ‘when we get there’ approach.”

Bennett says the Senators are throwing strikes and making their opponents put the ball in play.

“Our balls-to-strikes ratio is really good,” he says. “The pitchers know the defense is going to play behind them. Our defense is excellent.”

Bennett attributes that to “a lot of repetition. We’ve got a lot of seniors who have been with me for three years at the varsity level. We’ve worked on all kinds of situations and fundamentals. They have confidence in the way they can play, and they’ve been doing a great job.”

The last piece of the puzzle for Madison is at the plate.

“We’re still getting our bats going, but they’re coming around,” Bennett says. “All of my seniors, I would expect them to step up. My first baseman, Adam Wright, has been really hitting the baseball well (.390, nine RBIs). And Heiberg (.512, 15 RBIs) is always going to be a competitor.”

A senior transfer from Marist, Mak Hutson (.351, 11 RBIs), “is a competitor, and he’s starting to swing the stick a little bit.”

While winning the PIL 5A is the main goal, Madison also has its eyes on being one of the top eight 5A teams in the Oregon School Activities Association RPI. That would give the Senators a bye in the playoffs. Through last week, Madison was No. 8.

“For us, winning the PIL is a big goal,” Bennett says. “It hasn’t happened at Madison for a number of years. But you want the other teams in the PIL to do well against each other and whatever nonleague opponents they play against, because that helps the rankings.

“If we could just squeak into the top eight, that would be awesome.”

— Stephen Alexander

Contract Publishing

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