By Jeremy McDonald
KEIZER, Ore.– Keizer and Withnell started the league season with a nice little defensive battle at McNary High School Monday afternoon after having to push back the start of the series to Monday after the rain postponed the doubleheader of the series to Monday through Wednesday of this week.
But nonetheless, the Crushers and Dodgers found themselves in a defensive stranglehold with Keizer sending out McKay’s Austin Brown and Withnell sending out Sprague’s Cole Herschbach as their starting pitchers.
The Dodgers got on the board first as Noah Ferguson singled in Michael Soper to hand Withnell a 1-0 lead entering the bottom of the second inning as Brown held the Dodger bats to five hits in five innings with the Crusher offense looking to get on the board themselves against Herschbach.
But like their defense was doing, the Withnell defense jump up and ate up any fly-ball or ground-ball that their pitcher gave them as Herschbach only surrendered six hits in six-and-two-third innings of work for the Dodgers, so they had to take advantage of any opportunities given to them.
And for the Crushers, that came off the bat of their catcher in Jack Suing as the Kennedy-Grad singled to score Colton Meyer to tie the game up at one entering the fifth inning.
“Just trying to build momentum and staying together as a team. Just playing a team game, picking each other up when there’s a runner in scoring position and down by one, just trying to help each other,” said Suing on the hit. “Austin pitched a heck of a game today, same with Owen shutting her out and going forward that’s going to be big time in the rest of our league series.”131
Withnell too took advantage of their one opportunity with the bat as Will DeLoretto hit a bases-clearing triple to bring in two runs in the top half of the fifth to put more pressure on Keizer to keep up the pace.
“Both teams were shutting it down with pitching and I knew that I just had to make contact and put it in play, especially with two outs,” said DeLoretto. “We have a great D and Cole just kept hitting spots and when your hitting your spots, good things happen. Pop-flies and ground-balls, just keeping in front good things (happen) and that’s it.”
Herschbach kept letting his defense worked behind him as they turned a 1, 2, 3 fifth inning with turning groundballs into out. But in the bottom of the sixth inning, the Crushers challenged Herschbach and the Dodger defense with runners on second and third after a pick-off move at second resulted in the advancement.
Keizer couldn’t capitalize on the opportunity as Withnell shut the door on the Crushers when Gavin Freinburg came in with two outs for the save to close out the 3-1 win for the Dodgers Monday evening.
And the biggest lesson for Keizer is to take full advantage of situational hitting when it presents itself.
“That’s what we were lacking was rhythm,” said Suing. “Just not being consistent and having come up big with runners on second and third there (in the sixth) and struck out. Just not making plays when we need too, it’s all situational hitting. We can improve that as well.
“(Herschbach) pitched a good game, got to tip your cap and get them tomorrow and see what happens on Wednesday as well. I feel like we’re in a good spot in this series.”
And as the Crushers will be sending out David Allen and Meyers for the remainder of the series on the bump, the Dodgers too will look to improve their bats as well as Game 2 is scheduled for 6pm Tuesday at McNary.
“We had a lot of pop-outs today and I think we did a good job timing up, it’s just the level of the bat. I think as a team, if one person pops-out, it keeps just going on and I think if we get hot early tomorrow, I think it’ll just keep going with our team and it’s just who we are,” said DeLoretto.
Photos By Jeremy McDonald