By Jeremy McDonald
SALEM, Ore.– Entering this two-game series, South Salem was riding high on a 11-game winning streak and were second in the State of Oregon while West Salem was coming off a tough loss to Sprague Thursday afternoon at Sprague.
The Titans took the first game of the series 4-3 but found themselves down 6-4 entering the seventh inning as West Salem tried to make the most of their final three outs and tried to make the Saxons sweat a bit to earn a win.
“One thing that we talk about is that we have each other’s backs no matter what. That’s one thing is that we preach on is one pitch at a time and no matter what, if someone strikes out or grounds out something like that, we always have someone’s back,” said the Titans Shaun Dhote. “And knowing that, when we’re up to plate, up to bat and someone has your back you don’t have to think. You just play baseball, that’s what we do, have fun.”
Aaron Zavala pitched six innings with three strikeouts before handing the reigns over to closer Gavin Fredinburg for the save opportunity in the top half of the seventh inning.
Fredinburg got a ground-out for the first out of the inning. But West Salem followed that with singles from Blake Aritolla and Noah Juarez before Jacob Denning brought Aritolla home on a RBI single.
An error on Zavala, who was playing second base after pitching, on a routine fly-ball allowed West Salem to operate with one out with the Titans scoring three more runs before Zavala redeemed himself as part of a 6-4-3 double play involving Ryan Brown and Kaiden Doten got South out of the jam down 8-6.
“It’s just tough, I don’t know what else to say,” chuckled Fredinburg on the inning. “It’s rough, it happens. It’s baseball.”
With the Saxons 8-9-1 batters coming out, the Titans rolled out Logan Johnson in hopes for a quick inning to end the game. But it was quite the opposite.
Fredinburg challenged Johnson in a five-pitch at-bat with two foul balls, but Brayden Neuharth singled and Sean Alvarado reached on error before Zavala doubled to bring Alvarado home to cut the lead to 8-7 with Brown coming to bat.
West Salem intentionally walked the junior to load the bases with one out. Johnson and his defense were communicating like it was no big deal though they knew the situation they were in.
“Logan’s the man keeping his composure out there, someone boots the ball you know and you know what he does? Just comes out, comes back and he tries to let them hit it and let his defense plays. He knows he can trust his defense that we have his back.”
“You could tell everyone wanted it, it took us a while to get going, but these past two games have been a wake up call for everybody. But the vibe was pretty intense, we just got to keep the positive talk,” said South Salem’s Greyson Hanowell said of that seventh inning.
Tristan Haines, who came in for Danny Alvarado mid-game struck out in a four-pitch at-bat and the Titans got a glove on a hard-hit ball by Hanowell that ended the game with the bases still loaded as the Titans handed South Salem just their third loss of the season and second-in-a-row.
“These last two losses have been brutal for us, it’s definitely going to get us up and ready for Sprague because that’s where we need to be,” said Fredinburg. “We can’t let these two losses affect us, it’s a long season. These two losses aren’t going to define our season so we just got to bounce back.”
The Saxons will jump into another tough series with the Olympians Wednesday, Sprague lost to McNary 5-4 Monday afternoon in Keizer.
West Salem, who finds themselves in a two-way tie for second in the Greater Valley Conference with South Salem at 6-2, will be at McKay Wednesday for their series with the Scots won’t let this series win over the Saxons effect them too much as they’ll be following their mantra this season of ‘one game at a time, one pitch at a time’
“One thing we do is ‘one game at a time, one pitch at a time’ and that’s what we’re all worried about who we’re playing next and this is a big sweep against South, a really good ball club and what kind of helped was teams like South,” said Dhote. “Like Westview, Chandler (Arizona) and those teams in Arizona (and) we’re just going to take it one game at a time, one pitch at a time and see where it goes from there and we’re going to have a pretty good chance.”