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Royals open state quest Friday

MILTON-FREEWATER

-- New location, but a familiar story for the North Jackson Royals.

Three times in 1990s, the American Legion team from Eagle Point has won the state A tournament and progressed to the Northwest Regional.

But after a hiatus of two years, this group of Royals has something to prove.

North Jackson has won 21 of its past 23 games and carries a 34-8 record into its 8 p.m. Friday opener against host Milton-Freewater.

The biggest thing we talk to them about is that it's a privilege to represent Area No. 4, says veteran coach Tom Britton. Hopefully we can win a few games and then hopefully represent Oregon in the regional.

Whereas many of the teams playing in the state AAA Legion tournament in Eugene put together players from several schools, the Royals do not.

We're in a different position at Eagle Point, not able to combine schools, Britton says. But we put a lot of emphasis on being successful in the summer and gear towards playoffs, state tournaments and regional tournaments. That's what we're here for.

Most of the Royals' Area 4 competitors are feeder programs for the Medford Mustangs, Roseburg Dr. Stewarts and Klamath Falls Pelicans.

We play tournaments against bigger, stronger teams to get ready, Britton says. The kids on this club took their lumps last year when they were 15-and 16-years-old. They've paid their dues and are a lot more mature and a lot more advanced than they were last year.

Friday's other openers pit John Day vs. Forest Grove, North Salem vs. Clackamas and Baker City vs. Sherwood.

John Day is the defending champion and Britton considers North Salem a strong contender.

Teams from John Day, Forest Grove and Baker City have older kids, who have played college ball, Britton says.

Britton points out that most Legion teams in the Willamette Valley are one-school teams, like North Jackson.

You can imagine what a team would be like if you took Lakeridge, Lake Oswego and say Wilsonville, Britton says. Those teams would be a lot tougher.

Brothers Mike and Nick Newmann, batting third and fourth and holding down the No. — and No. 2 pitching slots, lead the Royals.

They've been the glue for this team, Britton says.

Mike Newmann will be a freshman at Riverside College in Calif., where he'll play for former Medford A's manager Dennis Rodgers. He plays in the outfield when he's not pitching. Nick Newmann, who'll be a senior at Eagle Point this fall, lines up at shortstop when he's not on the mound.