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From young boys to 'little men'


Young Gladiators take to baseball like a duck to water as they bag a county championship

by: SUBMITTED - Gladstone players and coaches proudly display their awards after winning a 15-14 barnburner from Putnam in the final of the 2014 Clackamas County Junior Baseball Midget National Championship Baseball Tournament. Pictured are: (first row, left to right) Amare Mouton, Caleb Conrad, Jacob Marroquin, Joshua Hernandez, Jake Guffee and Asher Gonzolez; (second row) C.J. Peiffer, Cohen Daves, Isiah Conner and Ben Hoffman; and (back) head coach Robert Marroquin, coach Pete Daves, coach Jerry Conner and coach Travis Gonzolez.Eleven “little men” from Gladstone have taken Clackamas County Midget Baseball by storm this spring and summer.

Nine of the 11 had never played baseball before this year. They’d played T-Ball together, but this was their first experience in baseball. And they’ve taken to the sport like a duck to water.

They earned first place at the recent Clackamas County Junior Baseball Midget National Tournament, after going 11-2-2 and finishing in second place in league.

‘Honestly, from the beginning of the season, when I was talking to the coaches, I said I thought these kids would be top three in league,” said Gladstone head coach Robert Marroquin. “I didn’t expect them to win a county championship, but I thought they’d be top three. I knew they had the talent, but confidence is where they were lacking. I said if they can develop confidence, they can be top three.

“They’ve exceeded my expectations. They’ve come so far since the first of the season. I don’t call them boys anymore. I call them ‘little men.’”

Marroquin added, “Us coaches look at these kids now and we say, ‘Who are these kids?’ They’ve improved so much, they’re playing with confidence, and they’re having fun....

“We teach these kids to have fun, but we also teach them to respect each other and to respect baseball. They are good friends and they’ve learned how to play together and support one another. It’s a different world for them — now that they’ve got confidence.

“I’m more than proud of these kids for what they’ve been able to do.”

Confidence and team play proved pivotal at the county championship tournament. The championship game with Putnam was a barnburner, with Gladstone winning 15-14. The player of the game was Gladstone right fielder Joshua Hernandez.

With Gladstone leading 15-13 in the bottom of the fourth, Hernandez made a running catch to end the inning. Putnam had two runners on base at the time and at least one, and possibly both of them, would have scored.

It was three-up and three-down for Gladstone in the top of the fifth. Putnam got a run back in the bottom of the fifth and the Kingsmen had the tying run at third base when the game ended with a groundout to second.

“It was an exciting and very competitive game,” said Marroquin. “The game went back-and-forth, with a different team leading in almost every inning. That play by Josh was a game-saver. The whole team picked him up and was hugging him [after he made the play].”

Marroquin noted that the play was all the more impressive because of the improvement Hernandez has made this year.

“At the start of the season, he couldn’t even throw the ball,” Marroquin said. “He couldn’t catch the ball; he couldn’t even swing the bat. I don’t think he’d ever played before. But the kids took him under their wing, offered support and encouragement, and now he’s a completely different kid.”

“Jake “the-snake” Guffee was the offensive hero in the title game, with two home runs — a solo roundtripper and a two-run shot.

In other county tournament games, Gladstone defeated Clackamas (Stouder) 13-10 and Clackamas (Dwyer) 17-6.

Ben Hoffman hit a solo in-the-park home run in the game with Clackamas (Dwyer), which was played on the softball field at Wilsonville High School.

Marroquin said that pitching was a strong suit for his Gladiators.

“We do have pretty strong pitching,” he said. “Seven of our kids pitch, and there are more hit balls than walks — by far.”

Members of the standout Gladstone team included: Amare Mouton (left field), Caleb Conrad (catcher/second base), Jacob Marroquin (first base/catcher), Joshua Hernandez (right field), Jake Guffee (centerfield/second base), Asher Gonzolez (shortstop/left field), C.J. Peiffer (pitcher/short stop/outfield), Cohen Daves (pitcher/short stop/outfield), Isiah Conner (catcher/pitcher/second base) and Ben Hoffman (third base).

Assisting Marroquin in coaching the team were: Pete Daves, Jerry Conner and Travis Gonzolez.

As county champion, the Gladiators advanced to the state championship tournament, where they earned fourth place, with state-tournament victories over Forest Grove (12-11) and McMinnville (12-11), and losses to Lebanon (11-1) and to Washougal (17-9).

“I am very proud of these boys for their hard work and confidence they found in themselves this year,” Marroquin said.