Ben Fox takes a .460 batting average into the state tournament

Gladstone’s Junior State Division I baseball team closed out the regular season strong, winning their last three games and finishing tied with Scappoose for first place in league, with a 10-4 league record (18-9 overall).

In games last week, the Gladiators earned wins over Scappoose (5-2), Horizon Christian (4-2) and Pendleton (18-8), after beginning the week with a tough 3-1 loss at St. Helens.

The Gladiators begin play in the 16-team Division I Junior State State Tournament at 2:30 p.m. Thursday, playing McNary at Western Oregon University. The tournament runs through Sunday with games at Crescent Valley High School and at WOU.

“I’m pretty pleased with the way we’ve been playing,” said Gladstone coach Casey Webster. “It’s been a good summer. “We lost [pitching ace] Trask Telesmanich to a broken finger at the end of June. But we’ve had some kids step up and do a pretty good job. Trask hasn’t been pitching or hitting, but he’s been playing second base, and playing some pretty tough defense for us. There’s a chance we could have him back [pitching and hitting] for Thursday.”

The Gladiators have had several players step it up at the plate in Telesmanich’s absence. Centerfielder and leadoff batter Ben Fox has had a tremendous summer with his bat, leading the team in batting average (.460), extra base hits (20 out of 40 hits), runs scored (37), RBI (24) and stolen bases (25 out of 25).

Austin Krieger sports a .370 battling average, with 17 runs scored; Betnar is hitting .365, with 21 runs and 19 RBI; Branden Loehr is hitting .351, with 17 RBI and 15 runs. Andrew Gross has scored 25 runs; Darnell Washington has 18 RBI and 11 doubles.

Top pitchers are Devin Neer (2.31 ERA), with 28 strikeouts in 42-1/3 innings; Krieger, with a 2.37 ERA and 38 strikeouts and only 18 walks allowed in 47-1/3 innings; and Logan Saltares, with a 2.49 ERA and 31 strikeouts in 45 innings.

Trey DePretto was tough on the mound in last week’s 5-2 win over Scappoose, striking out three and walking two, while yielding just two hits in 5-1/3 innings of work.

The Gladiators took charge of that game in the first inning, scoring three runs with two down on a base on balls by Krieger, base hits by Gross and Betnar, and a two-run double by Loehr.

Carter Watts went 2-for-2 at the plate; DePretto helped his own cause with two hits in three at bats.

The Gladiators put Horizon Christian away in the third inning, scoring three runs on a triple by Fox, a walk to Darnell Washington, a base hit by Krieger and a Horizon Christian error.

Saltares pitched six innings, striking out seven, walking three and scattering five hits.

Neer earned hero honors in last Saturday’s 18-8 win at Franklin. With his club trailing 7-3, he took over in the bottom of the third frame and pitched shutout ball through the next 4-2/3 innings, yielding just three hits.

Trailing 7-5, the Gladiators took charge of Saturday’s game in the top of the fifth, when they scored five runs on a base hit by Krieger, a run-scoring double by Loehr, run-scoring groundouts by Neer and DePretto, a hit batter, an error and a two-run home run by Fox.

Fox headed up an 11-hit offensive showing for the Gladiators, with two hits in three at bats, four RBI and three runs scored.

Krieger (2-for-2, double) scored four runs; Loehr (2-for-4) had two runs and two RBI; Washington rapped a double.

“We always talk about playing seven innings,” said Webster. “We did that. We hung in there and rallied back for the win.”

The Gladiators nearly pulled out the game in a July 15 3-1 loss at St. Helens. They had the bases loaded in the top of the seventh when a Lion infielder made what Webster termed “a great defensive play” on a ground ball hit up the middle.

Krieger (one strike out, one walk) pitched a complete game, yielding just five hits and no earned runs.

Watts (2-for-3) led Gladstone at the plate in the loss.

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