By Jeremy McDonald
CORVALLIS, Ore.– With just nine players dressing down for Thursday’s D1 State Playoffs, North Salem had no room for error.
Behind a complete game, six strikeout performance by Sean Alvarado, the Vikings showed grit and strength in their 2-1 victory over Bend to open bracket play.
“Executing is big with how many players we have,” said Alvarado. “It’s just about how much we trust each other and what kind of people we have and if you have the ice water in your veins, it don’t matter how many people you have.”
North Salem Head Coach Chris Lee knew ahead of time that his team would be playing with limited subs entering the playoffs, but he liked how his team battled.
“They’re scrapers, they’re competitors,” said Lee. “They’ve got better as the season went on. When the season first started, I think some of them think they didn’t match up well with other teams and now they’re like, ‘it doesn’t matter, let’s go play and see what’s going on’ and they battle.”
Down one entering bottom of the first, the base running and base awareness of North Salem got the Vikings in favorable scoring position as they eventually knotted it up at 1 when Jake Mason took home from third on a wild pitch after going from first to third on an error to first a few pitches earlier.
The defense of North led the way thanks to the arm of Sean Alvarado despite allowing a run early on to give the Viks an opportunity to take a lead in the bottom of the third.
With two walks and a sac fly, Alvarado took home off a wild pitch to give North a 2-1 lead entering the fourth.
For Will Tsukamaki, he was speechless that with how slow the bats were, they were able to win and mentioned how important their defense was in terms of winning Thursday’s game.
“I think this is the first time I’ve seen we didn’t get any hits and we won the game,” he said. “That’s how important defense is in baseball. Coach Lee has been preaching it and we started to listen and winning games.”
As both teams defense continued to hold the other’s offense in a holding pattern with six hits total, it came down to the seventh inning when Bend got their final hit.
Following a lead off double to start the final frame, North turned two outfield fliers into outs as Alvarado was faced with a 2-2 count with that lead-off guy behind him.
He took a deep breath, takes a peak at second and threw for the game-ending and his sixth strikeout.
“I was just trying to pitch to contact,” said Alvarado. “Wherever they hit it, I knew my guys would back me up. I wasn’t pressured or anything and I knew my guys had my back.”
The win is a huge confidence booster for the guys like Alvarado, Tsukamaki, and Cameron Kallhoff who remember how the season ended in May versus Clackamas.
Tsukamaki points out that it shows that their team is slowly bonding together as a unit.
“It feels awesome, we’ve played together for a while,” he started. “Even the guys who are new, we’re starting to bond and I think we’re starting to play as a team.”
Team unity and team bondness is huge for the Viking Nine as they face a familiar foe at Western Oregon University at noon Friday:
West Salem High School.
“I think we need to get some rest and come out and give West Salem our best stuff because we didn’t give our best last time,” said Tsukamaki. “So that should be a lot of motivation on our part to get after it.”
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PICTURES (Photos by Jeremy McDonald)