By Jeremy McDonald
WEST LINN, Ore.– They knew they wanted to win. They also knew they needed to win to keep up with North Marion and hold off West Linn.
In Thursday’s game against the West Linn Lions, the Santiam Senators did just that in a thrilling 6-4 fashion to remain even with the Huskies of North.
“It’s huge it meant a lot to us just to be able to beat them both times in this series,” said Caleb Clevenger who pitched a Complete Game and seven strikeouts. “It was good to come out with a strong performance, our whole team did because it was such a big game and it was nice to get the win and be in the position we are going into our game tomorrow.”
At the start of the game, it wasn’t just putting the bat on the ball that got the Senators on the board; walks too assisted in Santiam building a 6-1 lead behind a strong defensive output thanks to Caleb ‘CG’ Clevenger striking out five through Santiam’s first seven defensive outs including all three outs in the second frame.
But, you knew the bats of the Lions would roar to life eventually. You knew it was coming.
And it did.
West Linn picked up two runs before Clevenger picked up his sixth strikeout of the day to end the third inning.
The Lions force a 1,2,3 inning in the top half of the fourth as their bats were slowed to a crawl.
In what’s being called one of the best defensive outputs by the Santiam defense that committed zero errors all game, they clamp down the 6A West Linn offense the best they could.
“It was really important,” said Clevenger. “Pitching and defense were really important in this game because our bats just weren’t getting it done the last half of the game so it was crucial.
Threatening to score, the Santiam defense stepped up in yet another amazing relay as Devon BeDoya threw out the runner at home as Greyson Hanowell’s glove met the runners face for the out.
Back and forth it came down to the seventh inning with the Senators leading 6-4.
Their offense couldn’t add to the lead, so it came down to high-power offense versus a confident defense.
“It was so crazy,” JJ Avila described the seventh inning. “I could feel just like butterflies in my stomach just going crazy. Just hoping that the team could pull through the last part which we did.
“I’m very proud that our team followed through and did what we needed to do and stuck together and didn’t fall apart.”
Avila made a nice out at the fence at right field for the first out. Jacob Haller made the out in center, two outs to keep the Lions from having batters on the bags.
With a swing of the bat, floating towards shallow Right Field, Noah Ferguson made the final out to set up a Battle for First place between North and Santiam Friday in Stayton.
Avila described the game as an eye opener entering Friday’s game versus the Huskies.
“This game was a huge eye opener for all of us, giving us the momentum going into tomorrow is just good for the team,” said Avila. “We have confidence and knowing that we do have a change with North Marion.
“Going into the game not with our head down because we lost the first time, but our head up high because we did beat West Linn and they did lose to West Linn. Going into tomorrow, it’s going to be a good one.”
First pitch between North and the Senators is at 6pm at Stayton High School.
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Photos (Pictures By Jeremy McDonald)