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La Salle Prep reloads


The Falcons begin the season with wins in their first four games

Most high school baseball teams would struggle, after graduating eleven seniors, including seven all-league players, from a team that was considered a state-title-contender in 2013.

But that doesn’t appear to be the case with the La Salle Falcons, who have begun their 2014 campaign with wins in their first four ball games.

“We’re pretty solid defensively,” said La Salle first-year head coach Jake Austin. “We make the routine plays and don’t shoot ourselves in the foot. There’s still room for improvement, but our bats have been decent....

“We have decent speed and, for the most part, we get the bat on the ball and force people to make plays. Pitching depth is our biggest questionmark.”

The Falcons have begun the season with wins over Class 5A Madison (4-3), Corbett (10-0), Cottage Grove (6-2) and Blanchett (7-1).

Austin says that senior right-hander Austin Vaughn and junior right-hander Ian Basile have surfaced as his top two pitchers. And he says he likes what he’s seen from junior right-hander Mike Duarte. Both Vaughn and Duarte saw some action on varsity a year ago.

Austin says Vaughn was tough in the 4-3 win over Madison, shutting the Senators down until a Senator crushed a three-run home run in the sixth inning.

Austin was also happy with his team’s hitting against the Senators.

“We faced their best kid for six innings and did pretty good,” said Austin. “He was first-team all-state and we got nine hits off of him.”

Duarte got a walk-off single in the bottom of the seventh to gain the Falcons the win over Madison.

Vaughn was sharp on the hill again in the game with Cottage Grove.

“He pitched six innings and, except for one inning where they got two runs, he did a great job. He didn’t walk anybody.”

Austin has Vaughan playing shortstop when he’s not pitching. Vaughan got first-team all-conference recognition for his play at shortstop a year ago.

Duarte returns to start at third base when he’s not pitching. He garnered second-team all-conference recognition as an infielder last season. Senior Chris Dowhaniuk will also get some starts at third this season.

The Falcons return two more players who got conference all-star recognition a year ago in seniors Connor Shride and Dane Maben. Shride, who saw some action as a back-up catcher last season, is starting behind the plate this spring.

Maben returns as a starter in left field.

Austin says three players will likely see action at first base, seniors Nick Johnson and Theo Peterson and junior Jacob Casey.

Senior letterman Sam Wade has earned the starting nod at second base.

Senior letterman Kelly Krumm is starting in right field, and junior Keaton Kryger moves up from the jayvee to start in centerfield.

Krumm had two hits and three RBI in the 10-0 rout of Corbett, while sophomore Chris Larsen and Dowhaniuk teamed up to pitch a 3-hitter in the shutout.

Basile pitched five innings of shutout ball in the game with Blanchet. Krumm made solid contact for three hits in that game, while Wade and Vaughn both pounded out a pair of hits.

Austin says that Casey, Johnson and Duarte will all likely see time as the Falcon designated hitter.

“It looks like [the Tri-Valley Conference] is going to be a pretty competitive league,” said Austin. “North Marion looks like the front-runner, but Gladstone should also be strong. I know the coach at Estacada and Estacada looks competitive.... It looks like we’re in for a dogfight.”

Austin, who is an instructional assistant in the special education program at Tigard High School, comes to La Salle with experience assisting in top programs. The last two seasons he’s assisted at Tigard. Before that he assisted two years at Centennial and five seasons at Clackamas.