The Pacers win by double-digits for a second straight time in the young 2023 season.
It’s just two games into the 2023 season, and admittedly, there’s a lot more work to be done, but let’s be honest, the Lakeridge baseball team looks really, really good so far.
The Pacers won their second straight game by double-digits on Tuesday, March 21, routing Mountainside 10-0 at Lakeridge High School in 4 ½ innings.
“I felt great. I knew I had the best defense in the state behind me and they proved that today,” said Lakeridge senior left-handed pitcher Paul Wilson, who threw four innings and allowed no runs on one hit and no walks while striking out nine. He also walked three times and scored twice. “I felt really comfortable throwing out there.”
“Overall, I felt really good, especially after my first hit,” said Pacer sophomore Jacob Kotansky, who went 2 for 4 at the plate with three RBIs. “After that, I feel like I picked up my energy and our team picked up the energy after that first inning.”
“I was seeing the ball well,” added Lakeridge freshman Jaden Tragesser, who went 3 for 3 at the plate with one RBI and one run scored in his first varsity game. “(I got) a lot of fastballs, I was swinging early on the first pitch and I just felt good at the plate.”
With the win, the team’s second straight, Lakeridge — No. 3 in the preseason Class 6A statewide coaches poll — improved to 2-0 in non-league play. Next up, the Pacers will play Grant at Grant High School at 4:30 p.m. Thursday, March 23.
No. 5 Mountainside, meanwhile, saw its two-game winning streak snapped and fell to 2-1 overall. The Mavericks were led by sophomore Landon Sigler, who went 1 for 2 at the plate for his team’s only hit. Mountainside senior starting pitcher Austin Wolfe threw 2 2/3 innings, allowing seven runs on six hits and five walks with four strikeouts.
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After Wilson set the Mavs down in order in the top of the first — on three strikeouts looking — the Pacers took control with four runs in the bottom of the inning.
Lakeridge senior Dawson Santana and Wilson led off with back-to-back walks, and after one out, senior Luke Brooks drew another walk to load the bases. Kotansky followed with a two-run single down the third base line, and with two outs, Tragesser singled to center for a third run and senior Cameron Masters-Doble made it 4-0 when he blooped an RBI single to center.
Santana, the Pacer shortstop, made a killer play in the hole to open the second inning, and even though Sigler beat out an infield single with two outs, Wilson got Maverick junior Ryan Shandy on a grounder to end the frame. Wilson then struck out the side again in the top of the third.
The Pacers, after stranding three runners in the bottom of the second, broke through for three more runs in the third. Tragesser got things started with a single to left, took second on a wild pitch, stole third and scored on a throwing error by the Mountainside catcher.
Masters-Doble added a walk, and after that, senior pinch runner Jack Ulwelling moved to second on the Mavs’ throwing error, took third on an out and scored on sophomore Tyler Truong’s single to right. Wilson scored the third run of the inning when Kotansky singled to center with two outs.
Wilson struck out two more in a 1-2-3 fourth, then saw his team tack on three more runs for a 10-0 lead in the bottom of the fourth. There, the Pacers loaded the bases on singles by Tragesser and Masters-Doble, while Jackson Martin was hit by a pitch.
From there, Santana drove in one run with a groundout, Wilson walked, Ulwelling — running for Masters-Doble — scored on a wild pitch and Brooks walked to force home his team’s 10th run.
Brooks then came on to pitch a scoreless fifth, overcoming a leadoff walk to set down the final three Maverick batters.
While there was a large contingent of pro scouts on hand to see Wilson pitch — he’s committed to Oregon State, but is expected to be selected in the 2023 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft on July 9-11 — he said he felt calm in his first outing of 2023.
“It doesn’t make me nervous. I’ve grown to get used to it,” Wilson said. “I felt good. The velocity felt there. I just started to settle down. I knew that if I tried too hard, I’d start getting a little wild so I just put it on cruise control for a while and started throwing strikes and hitting my spots.”
The rest of the Pacers — their team reached the Class 6A state semifinals last spring — said they feel good about their chances this year.
“I think this season is going to be really fun,” Kotansky said. “I think we’ve got a really good defensive side and our bats are still coming to life. I think it’s just to get better as the season goes on.”
“We’ve got a really good team together this year,” Tragesser added. “We’re all really close. We’ve all bonded really well together and we’re always just picking each other up and it’s just our spirit that keeps us alive. We’ve got a good squad, but it’s just like the mental side where we’re really strong.”
Brooks went 2 for 2 with one RBI and one run scored in the win, and Masters-Doble was 2 for 2 with one RBI.
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