By Jeremy McDonald
SALEM, ore—A few days ago when the members of the Perth Heat came from Australia, Dubai, Qatar and Abi Dabi, they did not know anyone from the North Salem High School baseball team.
They were hosted by the Vikings while the DeMarini Wood Bat Tournament was going on that both team were participating in: North in the Black Pool, the Heat in the Red Pool.
In between games, they hung out with one another, got to know the families of the players and learned how things are here in the United States of America.
When one team played, the other cheer and visa verca.
Come Saturday, the two teams found themselves in the elimination bracket after Perth had to play three games in one day, losing all three, and North, after going through the gauntlet of Pool Play and the first game in the bracket were too on the other side of the bracket.
In between games, they talked about how cool it would be to play each other and knowing that the option was there.
The Heat turned up the heat versus Santiam to advance, but North did not.
That was, until a stroke of fate.
Rex Putnam, who rallied from a 4-1 deficit to defeat the Viks, had to withdraw due to injury to their catcher and had no substitute for him.
Now both sides are excited once more as they went off to Red Robin for dinner.
“It’s exciting, we were talking about it that it’ll be cool to play each other. then you saw them lose, ‘ah naw what happen there’ but we’re playing them sweet, hopefully we can get the win and we’ll know about it forever,” said Perth Heat’s Jacob Rizio on Saturday.
“I think it’s a good opportunity for us because we befriend some of these guys so it’ll be a fun competition-type thing and we’ll be able to root for each other if the other moves on in the tournament,” added Vikings Cameron Kallhoff on Saturday as well.
Sunday Morning rolled around at Schaefer Stadium. It was the battle between two opponents, good friends of another, now enemies on the diamond.
It was North Salem vs. Perth Heat of Australia. It was Zach Goodwin for the Vikings, ‘Mini’ Matsumoto for the Heat.
Its been a fun experience for both as they face each other Sunday morning.
“It’s been really fun since, knowing the guys it’s just like knowing the guy who’s pitching to make it a lot more better than not knowing a new guys who’s throwing to you,” said Perth Heat’s Sean Fekete . “It makes you feel better when you get a hit. It also makes you feel better if you don’t get a hit because your friends with the guy.”
Keegan Wafer, who played second and pitched in the game, knew how amazing it was to be apart of this adventure.
“It wasn’t that nerve racking, I knew they were going to throw the ball pretty well,” said Keegan Wafer. “But it was pretty exciting to play against the Aussies. This year, my first year playing with them, this is a great adventure.”
Both teams were tied at one after one before the bats of the Heat came to life in the bottom of the second inning, erupting for 10 runs.
The Vikings answered with a three-hit, three-run top of the fourth to cut Perth’s lead to 11-5, they didn’t want to lose bragging rights off the field.
“Watching them was really fun but playing against them is a whole different world,” said Wafer. “You get to battle with them, cheer them on but now they’re your enemies now. But yeah I thought it was amazing. It was really fun.”
Both sides traded the occasional comment to one another, as siblings, as friends would. But overall they supported one another, both teams wanted to see the other succeed while trying to beat them.
“It’s fun,” said Perth Head Coach Steve Fish. “We do this every year and we get a chance to meet new people and the kids really appreciate the host, it’s a awesome time I can’t even explain it.”
Though the Heat won 17-6, the boys had fun. A few of the Aussies even joined in on the Vikings round table meeting after the game, just sharing their thoughts on the game and their love of the game.
“Joining in that post-group meeting, you say a lot of things that you don’t really,” said Perth Heat’s Nick Mason on being apart of his first ’round table’ meeting with his friends from North Salem. “Because our post-group talks, we only really have our coaches talk. To hear a little piece from each and every player is great.
“I mean to see how much they look at the game and reflect on it, to know that they can do better, or see where they’ve gone wrong so they can get better and hopefully win and continue to win and keep getting better.”
But its back to work for both teams though.
The Boys From Down Under still had games ahead at the DeMarini Wood Bat Tournament before moving forward for their trip, and the wind in their sails are slowly coming around at the right time.
“I think the chemistry is really coming together,” said Fekete. “Just having us play with friends now, how you just get to know them and like know them, feel for them it helps us because you have to have each other’s backs.
“We just play a lot better when you know the guys who’s next to you. You know they got your back when you dive for a play and they can get after it.”
For North, its back to Summer League Ball with South Albany Tuesday.
“We can take all the good things that we did and to the next game and take the mistakes we made through the whole tournament and work on those during our off-time,” said Vikings Sean Alvarado.
Though their roads will soon separate, but they became friends, brother-like almost. Once they do split on whenever day, the memories they built in Salem, at Schaefer Stadium, will carry on with each and every one of both the Perth Heat and North Salem High School teams.
“I think it was a good experience have them come down, I think they showed us a lot about the game and how much they play. To have them in our roundtable, have them on the field with us, it was a good experience.”
Follow Jeremy McDonald on Twitter at @J_McDonald81 or like jmcdonaldmedia on Facebook!
PHOTOS FROM PERTH/NORTH’S GAME (PICTURES BY JEREMY MCDONALD)