By Jeremy McDonald
KLAMATH FALLS, Ore.– Coming out three outs away with Jaret Stewart still pitching, the Dallas Post 20 Dirtbags were on an emotional rollercoaster with the scoreboard reading them 9, Eugene 5.
“You just got to go out there and be relaxed and be able to get one out at a time,” said Stewart on going out there for the final three outs of the ballgame. “For most pitchers, they’ll go out, kind of nervous for it and not be able to get the first out of the inning and people just get on them.
“But at that point, I knew I was tired, I wasn’t going to strike people out. So I just let them hit the ball to our players and I knew they were going to play defense.”
At one point in this one, Dallas were next to no hitted and were down 4-0 entering the fifth inning. But. They believed despite the frustrations they were going through as Stewart kept wheeling and dealing as if it was a 0-0 game or he was throwing with the lead.
“As long as we can play defense hopefully our bats will eventually come,” said Stewart. “And so more defense we play and less runs they put up on the board, it’ll give our bats more opportunities to warm up and be able to hit the ball.
“The longer you go and more you face a pitcher, you’ll be able to hit off of him more.”
In their dugout when Brody Wittman’s hit was the only number under the ‘H’ on the board, their coaches helped them stay the course. Believing that they can do this.
Things like not quitting on this team was said, and boy did it work.
Three runs in the fifth, one in the sixth to get it to 5-4, three straight K’s by Stew the Dude set up the no-doubt inning.
With four runs in that inning, a once 4-0 lead with their bats slow to start was now a 8-5 lead with Jackson Holstad having the go-ahead RBI hit that put them up one; the squads first lead since leading Medford 7-6 early the night before.
“I mean I stepped into the box just thinking that I just want to square a ball up,” said Holstad. “I haven’t had a solid hit all day and I was pretty due. So I went in there thinking, ‘middle and away’. He had a little bit of velocity, it was down a little bit from the start of the game. But I was just thinking about putting it into play.”
“It was huge, that was a total momentum shift and that incredible. That’s something we do really well. When we need them, we go get them.”
Holstad said as well as they went back on defense now leading by three that baseball is a weird game. One moment your riding high and then you get knocked back down. It’s all about staying with it.
“It’s all about staying with it you know, baseball is a type of game where you can be slapping teams by 10 runs and then come out and lose by 10 runs. From that point on we were just day-to-day,” said Holstad. “So we came with the same intensity and focus that we wanted to have starting off the tournament and we brought it to the field today.”
They got another three straight outs in the eighth inning, now making it eight-straight batters retired and now back to the ninth inning.
Stewarts pitch count was 104, meaning he only had 16 pitches left with Wittman loose just in case they need another arm to finish ‘er off.
Peter Mendazona scoops a grounder and threw out the lead-off guy at first with Luis Amador on the receiving end of the throw. A few pitches later, Wittman made another out in center to go along with two he had the inning before.
Maybe, just maybe Stewart will have a complete game? With eight strikeouts on the afternoon, he won’t get number nine. But he did get that complete game as the Mendazona-Amador connection complete not just a comeback, not just got the sour-taste out of their mouths from their 19-7 loss to the Mustangs the night before.
It too got them to the stage they knew they could be at:
The philosophy of one game at a time worked and they had one of their best, complete games of the year at the right time.
But they need to do that again…twice to not just win the Title Sunday, but go to the Northwest Regional tournament In Montana as well.
And the mindset for Sunday is the same that got them to Sunday: One game at a time.
“Oh it’s just fantastic, that’s what we’re here for: Sunday,” said Holstad. “That’s what we’ve been looking forward to all week and we’re ready to go. We want to treat it as a regular old game, nothing really special.”
Photos By Jeremy McDonald