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Prep Watch

by: TRIBUNE PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ  - Wilson shortstop Brendan Freeman fields the ball as Lincolns Nate Ostmo slides into second base at Gabriel Park. Lincoln won Mondays nonleague PIL game 10-6.Lincoln High got the better of Portland Interscholastic League rival Wilson 10-6 Monday in a nonleague baseball game at Gabriel Park.

Fifth-year Lincoln coach Roy Herder says the Cardinals, are athletic, but need more experience, even with 12 seniors on the roster.

“We’re just trying to get better every day,” Herder says. “Some days, we can be very competent and a contending team. At other times, we’re still learning.”

Lincoln (5-3) went to Phoenix, Ariz., over spring beak to play in the Coach Bob National Invitational Tournament. The Cardinals went 3-1, winning 4-3, 14-6 and 10-1 and losing 16-6.

“We played some good baseball against some good teams,” Herder says. “We also had opportunities to learn what it takes emotionally to stay in every game. The game we lost, we had the lead 6-3 against a good team. We had some emotional breakdowns that we learned to get on top of. It didn’t feel too good letting the game get away. But, in the long run, that’s going to bear more fruit.”

The Cardinals have a plethora of pitchers. Herder says eight players are talented enough to see time on the rubber.

“Kyle McNeil (Monday’s winning pitcher), we thought was maybe going to be the No. 5 guy. He’s improving his status,” Herder says. “Our top guy is Joey Angyus. It’s not that he throws the hardest, but he’s our most complete pitcher. Will Parker is another senior pitcher. A junior, Wynn Gruszka, is our only left-hander. Nate Ostmo is our hardest thrower.

“We have a nice balance. Finding innings for all our guys can be a challenge.”

Herder says the Cards have four batters “who could really do some damage: leadoff man Griffin Bolte, No. 4 hitter Angus, Andrew Gazeley and junior Ostmo, who is starting at shortstop for the third year. Bolte was 2 for 4 with a triple and a double against Wilson.

The Cardinals are in the Class 6A Special District 2 one more time this season, along with Thurston, South Eugene, Grant and Sheldon.

“We have to go down and play typically some of the top programs in the state,” Herder says. “It was a learning process the first two years. This year, we can compete. It’s not that the other programs are down, but our program is up a little bit.”

• Despite the outcome of Monday’s game, Wilson coach Mike Clopton was fairly happy with the way his Trojans played. While he did not like the numerous errors that led to unearned runs, Clopton did like the pitching and hitting he saw from his club.

“This is the best we’ve played,” Clopton said. “Offensively and pitching wise, we were pretty good. It’s just that we couldn’t field the ball, or throw the ball, and they (the Cardinals) swung the bat pretty well. They’re pretty good hitters. Rob is a good hitting coach, and they hit well. But this was a step in the right direction for us.”

Wilson came into the game on the heels of a brutal spring break trip to California. The Trojans went 0-5, losing by a combined 51-4. When asked what the Trojans took out of a trip on which they got their hats handed to them, Clopton paused.

“I don’t know,” he said. “That’s a tough one. ... We did compete all the time. I think that down deep, the players want to get better, they have a passion, and they’re working to get better. I hope that’s what they took from it.”

Wilson’s three starting pitchers this year will be senior John Venables and juniors Cole Conklin and Matt Harvison.

“John has the most experience,” Clopton says. “The others have pitched a little, but not much.”

The Trojans will rely on their four seniors — Brendan Freeman, Zach Wogan, Jonah Harris and Venables — to produce runs at the plate.

“Our seniors need to come through,” Clopton says. “They’re three- and four-year lettermen. How they go is how the rest of us go.”

Clopton says that Madison is the team to beat this season in the PIL, but he thinks that if the Trojans continue progressing, they could be competitive.

“The PIL is pretty even,” Clopton says. “We have a chance to have a good season because of that. Madison has the best talent. They’ve got three strong pitchers, and they’ve had some transfers come in. They’re the favorites. We don’t play them until the end, so we hope that maybe by the end we’re better and we can compete with them.”

Stephen Alexander