The loss of 10 seniors to graduation left a number of holes in the Pioneers lineup as they went through an up-and-down summer

REVIEW/NEWS PHOTO: JIM BESEDA - Oregon City's Trey Curtiss drew the start in last week's OIBA tournament opener against Westview.WILSONVILLE -- When the high school baseball summer season started, Oregon City was faced with a major retooling project.

The Pioneers had graduated 10 seniors from last spring's Class 6A playoff team and were breaking in new starters at every position except two -- senior Logan Hanson in center field and senior Kyle Roley in right field.

Oregon City coach J.J. Winkle set out this summer to solidify his starting lineup, but walked away from Wednesday's 6-1 season-ending loss to Westview in the opening round of the OIBA tournament at Wilsonville High School asking many of the same questions he had before summer league started in early June.

"The goal was to kind of to have an idea of what we're going to look like going into next season and … I really don't know," Winkle said. "We're going to be back at square one come next spring.

"I've got a pretty good idea of who can hit. I just don't know who the heck can play defense. But that's OK, too. They're kids at that's what makes it fun."

Senior right-hander Trey Curtiss gave Oregon City six solid innings on the mound Wednesday, scattering eight hits with one walk and three strikeouts, but his efforts were offset by six errors -- two on the base paths and four in the field -- that all but handed the game to Westview.

The Pioneers were still in the game when Hanson's RBI-single scored Hunter Manassero from third base to tie the score at 1-1 in the third, but Westview capitalized on two Oregon City errors to score a pair of unearned run in the bottom half of the inning to take a 3-1 lead.

Westview tacked on three runs on three hits and a sacrifice fly in the sixth to help put the game out of reach.

Silver linings

"Trey's effort on the mound was really good," Winkle said. "He had three pitches and he threw them for strikes. We made a couple of defensive mistakes behind him, and you can't extend innings like that when you're playing good teams.

"Westview can swing the bat and you can't afford to give them any extra opportunities, and that's kind of what we did. Good teams take advantage of that, and that's what Westview did."

This summer, the Oregon Independent Baseball Association had 31 Portland-area teams that were divided into four divisions, with the top four teams from each division advancing to the 16-team, single-elimination championship tournament.

Oregon City went 8-6 in the eight-team Murphy Division, finishing fourth behind Clackamas (13-1), McMinnville (10-4) and West Linn (10-4).

In the tournament, the Pioneers drew Lolich Division-champion Westview, which was a bit of a mismatch in that the Wildcats exercised their OIBA option to play graduated seniors, while Oregon City utilized a roster made up exclusively of high school prospects.

"I'm just trying to get my kids better," Winkle said. "I don't care what everyone else is doing.

"It would be nice to win an OIBA championship, but think about it. You've got OIBA, American Legion, Connie Mack, Senior Babe Ruth … you've got all these league, plus club baseball, so this isn't really a state championship, per se. I mean, we want to compete and win just to keep the summer going, but it's not like I'm going to live or die if I win this thing."

Goal oriented

Winkle went into the summer season with 32 players -- 15 on the OIBA varsity team, and 17 freshmen and sophomores on the OIBA Futures team.

The varsity squad finished with a 21-14 record, and the Futures finished 23-6.

"I'm excited about the numbers," Winkle said. "I think we're doing the right thing here. I mean, the kids enjoy it and they come out and work.

"It's just that all of us, including the coaching staff, have to get better if we want to be competitive. It's not just the kids. I'll be the first one to say there has got to be some improvements at my level for us to get better."

And, again, questions linger.

"We're filing holes. We lost a lot of seniors, so we're playing some guys that haven't played as this level before. Offensively, we swung the bat really well all summer. I don't think that's our issue. We just didn't play defense real well and we pitched OK.

"There probably are a few kids that you can bank on being in the lineup. I mean, the coaching staff could sit down and say, 'Yeah, this kid will be here, that kid will be there, and this kid will be here,' but other than that … I just don't know.

"It was a good summer. The kids played hard. We had 32 kids on two teams and they know we've got work to do and we know we've got work to do. So, all you can do is get better."

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