West Linn baseball team expects to challenge in 2017
But as great as all that was, it won't be nearly good enough for the Lions in 2017.
West Linn comes back strong with four all-leaguers this year, and while the Lions must replace two second-team all-Three Rivers League pitchers — including 2016 TRL Utility Player of the Year Will Matthiessen — they believe they have enough talent to win their league and make a deep run in the playoffs.
"I think we'll compete right there at the top," said West Linn coach Joe Monahan. "One of our mottos and one of the things we believe in every year is 'We're here to compete for league and state titles.' We see nothing different in our talent this year."
As to the team's all-league returners, that group is led by senior Tim Tawa, a Stanford commit who won first-team all-league and all-state honors a year ago and will also join the pitching rotation this spring.
Also back and ready to contribute are senior third baseman/first baseman Jake Porter (he won first-team all-TRL honors as an outfielder, second-team TRL honors as an infielder and was honorable mention all-state as an outfielder last year), junior catcher Micah Gibson (a 2016 TRL second-teamer) and senior center fielder Chase Cosner (another TRL second-teamer).
"We're going to probably use 11 or 12 position players regularly, the core being Micah Gibson behind the plate, and Tim Tawa and Chase Cosner," Monahan said. "Those are going to be pretty strong staples. Those guys and Jake Porter will be out there all the time."
In the pitching rotation, the Lions will call on senior right-hander Garrison Ritter, Tawa, senior lefty Ryan Driscoll, junior left-hander Garrett Marioni, sophomore right-hander Jonathon Kelly and a handful of others.
Garrison Ritter "will be our … first guy to go. He's going to lead on the mound," Monahan said, adding that Tawa is "another great pitcher, but since he's also our shortstop, we want to be careful about how we use him and when we use him, but he can dominate any team in the state on the mound. (In total), we have 9 or 10 guys who can contribute on the mound. We have quality pitching, so I like our staff and they've thrown well so far."
Around the infield, the Lions will look to Gibson behind the plate, Driscoll and Porter at first, junior James Marshall at second, Tawa and Kelly at shortstop, and Porter, Kelly and senior Sanders Jones at third.
There's additional talent — a wealth of it — in the outfield, led by three-year starter Cosner in center, senior Evan King in left, Marioni in right (he leads the team in hitting thus far), and juniors Zach Anderson and Drew Vannaman.
"We've got four or five guys who will get time out there, and a lot of those guys pitch, too, so it gives us good flexibility on how we're going to use them and when we're going to use them," Monahan said.
Also due for varsity time are sophomore pitcher/first baseman Caleb Franzen, senior left-handed pitcher/outfielder Connor Lang, sophomore catcher/first baseman JJ Hoover, junior left-handed pitcher/outfielder Joey Campbell, senior right-handed pitcher/third baseman Rance Pittman, senior first baseman Seth Long and junior right-handed pitcher/first baseman Allan Scott.
With that as pretext, the Lions also know just how tough the Three Rivers League race is likely to be.
"Our league is always loaded," Monahan said. There's Lake Oswego, "Sherwood, and Lakeridge is always right there. Tualatin could be there this year, too — they're off to a decent start. Those teams are all really good."
To see the Lakeridge team preview, click here.