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The Pacers have lots of experience back, but no returning all-league players

PMG PHOTO: MILES VANCE - Lakeridge senior Hayden Moore and the Pacers are hoping to show improvement in the ever-tough Three RIvers League during the 2019 season.The Lakeridge baseball team knows that it's facing a big challenge.

The Pacers enter the 2019 season coming off a 2-15 Three Rivers League campaign a year ago, without an all-league player in the lineup and adjusting to a new coaching staff led by D.J. Whittemore.

"I think we are in for stormy weather when it comes to the TRL," said Whittemore, who assisted at West Linn last year after spending 12 seasons as head coach at Western Nevada College from 2005-16. "First, there isn't a game on the schedule we 'should' win. Second there are many teams that would be 'favored' over our team.

"Add in that we play the four frontrunners the first four weeks, and the first three of those series on are the road and you can see why our goal is going to be to stay afloat and survive the rough seas."

That said, the Pacers have hope for the coming Three Rivers season and their chance at improving.

"Our leadership and work ethic is the strength of our team," Whittemore said. "We have so many leaders that it's impossible to identify two or three. We have a core of returners that all lead by example and the example they set is perfect."

Around the diamond, Lakeridge will look to a cadre of returning varsity players in its infield — junior Trent Allen at catcher, senior Colin Hardy and sophomore Cody Taylor at first base, senior Hayden Moore at second base, sophomore Cameron Clayton at shortstop and junior Spencer Santana at third.

There's more experience back in the outfield, too, with senior Casey Smith ready in left field, Santana potentially seeing time in center, and Hardy or Taylor playing right. Also battling for time in the lineup are junior outfielder Spencer Gore, junior infielder Brian Hamlin, junior first baseman Cooper Justice and sophomore infielder Derek Seneker.

"(Naming our) best player is hard to determine because we have no one much better than anyone else, but the good news is no one is much worse than anyone else, either," Whittemore said.

In the pitching rotation, the Pacers will likely look to Hardy, Santana and Taylor as their three starters with Justice set to go as the team's closer.

"Our staff isn't top heavy, but hopefully, it will prove to be bottom heavy," Whittemore said. "We have six or seven guys who can keep us in the game, but we lack two or three that can dominate.

"Cooper Justice might end up separating himself from the rest of the pitchers, but it's too soon after basketball ended to really know what he is capable of."

Also ready for varsity time this spring are junior outfielder Shaun Leib, senior pitcher/first baseman Tyler Sloan, junior pitcher/infielder John Taylor, junior outfielder Max Afrasiabi, junior outfielder Willie Carlson, sophomore pitcher/infielder Mac Elske, junior pitcher/catcher Owen Brown, sophomore pitcher/infielder Michael Brannon and junior pitcher Will Owen.

Regarding the upcoming TRL race, Whittemore sees West Linn as the favorite, followed by Lake Oswego and Tigard.

"West Linn has won five TRL championships in a row. How could they not be favored?" he asked. "(But) behind them is a duo of excellent teams capable of knocking them off — Lake Oswego, who returns two of their top three pitchers and probably the best pitching prospect in the league in (University of Washington commit Alex) Giroux, (and) Tigard has nearly all of their arms back and is experienced and talented."

To see the Lake Oswego team preview, click here.

To see the West Linn team preview, click here.

Contact Sports Editor Miles Vance at 503-330-0127 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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