By Jeremy McDonald
LAKE OSWEGO, Ore.– Tuesday marked the start of the final five games of the season between the Pacers of Lakeridge and the Lakers of Lake Oswego as the competition in the Three Rivers League heats up.
Before the game however, on a somber note, the Pacers honored a Lakeridge graduate who sadly passed away this weekend in 2012 Lakeridge Pacer graduate J.J Todd.
Pacers Head Coach Marco Tavera knows the importance it is to the community is in something like honoring one of their own.
“When I came here last year, this community is huge and the support that they have for everyone and not just their own. It’s just an amazing place to be. Once you’re a Pacer, you’re a Pacer for life,” started Tavera.
“Whether if he played baseball or not, it would’ve been something we would’ve honored. Once you become a Lakeridge Pacer, that’s who you are and it doesn’t die when you leave. I got kids who graduated, my first class, I probably talk to them twice a week. Seeing how things go in college. How college ball going. We honor those kids, it means a lot to us, it means a lot to our community.”
Moving back to the game, though the Lakers took Game One of Three 8-1 Tavera knows Wednesday’s game is just as important as the first in term’s of the playoff push.
“It’ll be big for us. There a great ball club, they’re sitting on top of our league,” said Tavera. “They’ve had a really good guy on the hill today (in Mitchell Verburg), he’s going to OSU next year, there’s scouts out here watching him. He can throw.
“For us, we’ll come back tomorrow and even the series out, it’ll be a big step for us because they’re a good program, they’re a good team. We have to take it one game at a time. It didn’t go our way tonight, but we just got to come back together and find out how tough we are to overcome this and go get them on their home field, but it’ll be huge.”
Verburg, as Tavera mentioned, proved why he was one of the highly wanted pitchers in the Three Rivers League. In five and two-third innings, the senior held the Pacers to three hits with nine strikeouts in the game.
As Verburg was doing that on the mound, his offense took advantage of the slow start of Lakeridge by jumping out to a 4-0 run through two innings.
“When you spot people four runs within the first (two) innings, it’s hard to dig out,” said Tavera. “But at the same time they hit our guy early, but our pitcher calmed down he got us down into a situation where he gave us a chance.”
Jared Finkin, the starting pitcher for the Pacers, gave his defense opportunities to make plays but putting the ball in the strike zone. Though Finkin and reliever Jack Ramsey allowed hits, their defense allowed four runs over the remaining five innings against the quick bats of Lake Oswego.
Lakeridge found themselves on base several times, either through their five hits or five walks, the Pacers had their opportunities against the Lakers but to no avail.
“We left six guys in scoring position that we couldn’t get runners in,” said Tavera. “That’s something we that we can take advantage of tomorrow. But the five errors didn’t help. When you give good teams like that, they did what they suppose to do. Score a lot of runs on those and they capitalized.”
It wasn’t until the bat of one Dutton Elske that broke the then-shutout with a roughly 330 foot homerun over the left centerfield fence with two outs in the seventh inning that gave some mojo for Lakeridge entering Wednesday’s game.
The Pacers and Lakers will open Act II of this in-town rivalry to Lake Oswego High School Wednesday at 5pm.
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PHOTO GALLERY (PICTURES BY JEREMY MCDONALD)