The area 11 and 12-year-olds rally around a positive mindset and a mastery of the fundamentals to win state in the Junior National division of Junior Baseball
Execution of the fundamentals and a positive mindset paid huge dividends for a group of young men from Clackamas the weekend of July 8-10.
Thats when the Clackamas Cavaliers Junior National baseball team coached by Curtis Schlunz traveled to Lebanon and captured a state championship.
The group of 11- and 12-year-olds advanced in the double elimination state tournament with wins over Mill City (11-1), Monroe (3-2) and Canby (14-7), before losing to Monroe 12-10 in an extra inning game. They then bounced back to crush Monroe, winning 19-4, in the championship final.
The Cavaliers finished the year with an overall record of 24-1, their only loss coming at the hands of Monroe in their fourth game of the state tournament.
Schlunz team is the first Junior Baseball team from Clackamas to win a state title in any age division in over a decade.
Im really proud of the kids for trusting in each other and trusting in their coaches, Schlunz said. I think that two things made the difference for this team. I think they understand that practice does not make perfect, but practice does make permanent. And they had a really strong positive mindset. Ive coached 19 teams and mentally these kids were the strongest team Ive ever coached.
Schlunz noted that hes been a certified coach through the Positive Coaching Alliance for the past six years. Through the program coaches learn how to strengthen their team by having players support one another through positive reinforcement.
The positive mindset came into play following the 12-10 loss to Monroe. Following the loss, Schlunz gave the empty e-tank [emotional-tank] talk. After a 30 minute break, his players came out confident, with a positive mindset, and blew Monroe away.
All through the season, we preached mindsets to the kids, Schlunz said. Everyone makes mistakes. Its how you put it behind you and recover that makes the difference, and we recovered from mistakes better than any team we played .
The kids were positive and not just among themselves. If a player on another team would get a big hit or make a big play, our kids were there with a high five. Ive seen a kid on our team rip the ball for what should have been a triple only to have an opposing player make a great diving catch. And our kid was out there congratulating him for a having made a great play .
The Cavaliers were in command all the way in the title game, leading 4-1 at the end of the first inning, 14-1 at the end of three innings, and 15-1 heading into the fifth. They earned a 12-4 advantage in hitting and they committed just one error behind pitchers Samuel McGladrey, Conner Just and C.J. Schlunz, who struck out eight batters and only walked three.
The highlight of the championship game came in the bottom of the third inning when Dylan Gentile, a first-year player, crushed the ball to the fence in centerfield for a two-run triple. It was the longest hit of the year for Gentile, who had had only one other extra base hit to that point in the season.
The young Cavaliers played some of their best baseball of the season in their 3-2 state playoff win over Monroe. Pitchers C.J. Schlunz, Ryan Scribner and Tyler Stearns combined to strike out 11 batters, while allowing just two hits, in that game. And Clackamas team played error-free defense.
Just was the offensive hero, scoring the winning run in the top of the fifth when he reached and advanced to second on an error, advanced to third on a wild pitch, and scored with two down on a wild pitch.
Later that day, I tracked Monroes coach down and told him that his team was easily the best team weve played all season and that I was confident wed see them again [in the finals] on Sunday, coach Schlunz said. And he said, Thats the plan.
Their pitcher was the fastest pitcher wed ever seen and their catcher was having a tough time managing his pitches.
Schlunz Cavaliers had advanced to the state tournament by going 4-0 at the Clackamas County Championship Tournament, defeating Canby 15-14 in the final, after advancing through wins over CYO (15-5), North Marion (19-15) and Canby (9-7).
Trailing 14-12, the Cavaliers scored three runs in the bottom of the sixth and final inning of the county final with Canby. Just, Joey Irish, Scribner and C.J. Schlunz all hit safely in the pivotal sixth, with Schlunz driving in the game-winner.
Members of the standout Clackamas team included: Calvin Brackett (right field/second base), Andrew Chen (left field), Dylan Gentile (left field), Joey Irish (catcher), Conner Just (first base/pitcher), Samuel McGladrey (pitcher/second/right field), C.J. Schlunz (pitcher/center field), Ryan Scribner (pitcher/shortstop), Tyler Stearns (pitcher/shortstop) and Jacob Stoppelmoor (third).
Chen received special recognition at the state tournament when tournament coaches named him recipient of the individual sportsman award. Coach Schlunz said that all through the state tournament Chen was complimenting players on opposing teams for making great plays.
Zachary Gillmore (right field) also played with the Cavaliers during the regular season but was unable to take part in postseason play.
All of the players except Gillmore will be eligible to play in the 11-12 age division again next year.
Skylar Schlunz and Troy Stearns assisted in coaching the team.
The Cavaliers were a good hitting team. Their team batting average was .424 for their five state tournament games and .508 for the season.
Stearns (.786), Schlunz (.583), McGladrey (.583) and Irish (.563) all hit over .500 for the state tournament. Stearns went without a strikeout for the state tournament.
Leading the Cavaliers in hitting on the season were: Schlunz (.702), Stearns (.651) and Just (.632). Just only struck out once all season in 112 at bats. Schlunz had a team-leading 49 RBI. Just and Schlunz both scored 62 runs; Stearns had 42 RBI.
Nearly every player on the team got a chance to pitch, but the top pitchers were: Stearns (87 strikeouts in 41 innings), McGladrey (63 strikeouts in 34 innings), Schlunz (57 strikeouts in 57 innings) and Stearns (56 strikeouts in 33 innings).