By Jeremy McDonald
SALEM, Ore.– Entering the bottom of the sixth-inning the gray shirt Chemeketa team known as ‘Keene Machine’ were leading the green-shirt ‘Woos Cruise’ squad 3-0 and were looking to take Game 7 of the Fall World Series with the Series all-knotted up at three apiece.
The teams, drafted by two of the Storm coaches for the intra-squad scrimmage designed to challenge the kids this fall while having some fun at the same time, were just about to enter a wild ride to end the game.
Slowly, Woos Cruise stormed back into the game with two runs in the bottom of the sixth inning before forcing extra’s when they knot it up at three-all in the bottom of the seventh inning.
As 2017 Sprague-Grad in the submarine-throwing Cody Vestal shutdown the Keene Machine bats, Olympian teammate and now Storm teammate Justin ‘Cpep’ Culpepper hit a one-out single to help set-up the Hitman in 2016 West Salem-graduate Brody Wittman.
“I mean, it was nice and easy up there, I knew the guys behind me were going to score, I knew I had to get on base and go base-by-base,” said Culpepper on the hit “And Brody put that ball down the line and Coach Woos sent me and I was going, I was sending it.”
As kids like Culpepper, Culpepper, McNary’s Josh Benson, McKay’s Noah Tavera and Central’s Luis Amador are making the move to the collegiate level, this Fall-Ball season has been beneficial for them making the move to the next level.
“Just new guys from all over the place. There’s a couple of guys from Alaska and all over, it’s fun competing everyday with all of these guys,” said Culpepper on the .
“It’s fun, we all know we’re athletes, when we get together it’s a great time being together on the field once-and-for-all and having fun playing the game that we love,” Culpepper added playing with some local guys, a few he either played with or against while at Sprague the last few years.
With a Culpepper floating around on the basepath, one of the guys Culpepper played against while he was at Sprague in West Salem’s Wittman showed off his power with the bat, sending a blast deep along the third-baseline and falling fair that drove the Chemeketa freshman Culpepper home for the 4-3 victory Saturday afternoon.
“It was definitely a lot of fun our team competed well against them, it was definitely fun to play in a scrimmage, play against your own guys,” said the Storm Sophomore in Wittman who hit .242 with a homerun and 10 RBIs in 32 games as a freshman in 2017. “We’re playing a seven-game series, it was our seventh-time seeing them and what not. It was a lot of fun.”
And with Chemeketa wrapping up fall ball and looking to grow as a team and build from this past Springs 27-21 record, this fall has served to help build that team-bond with Spring 2018 just right around the corner.
“It will definitely help us out because we get to play with everyone, even some guys who will be starting are playing with guys who might not be starting,” said Wittman on the team-bonding aspect of the scrimmages. “It just helps people become better and fight for their position and what not.”
On Monday, the Storm will host their 100-inning fundraiser in which the Chemeketa players on the team will dress up in costumes to take part in the game that afternoon; and though the Hitman in Wittman doesn’t know what he’s going to wear Monday, there’s still going to still be fun.
“”We do it for a little fundraiser deal that we do, we send out notes and emails and letters to get people to help donate to the Storm program and we play a game, just a fun game to get us going,” said Wittman.
Photos By Jeremy McDonald