By Jeremy McDonald
SALEM, Ore.– The doubleheader didn’t necessarily to plan, but the Withnell Dodgers go into their day off before their non-league doubleheader with the East County squad out of Gresham Friday at 2pm.
In their first game against the Mid-Valley Southpaws of the doubleheader, one inning was the difference maker in the game as they dropped the opener 5-0 following their 8-7 tough game the night before in Albany.
In the second game of the doubleheader, the bats came around but the runs were hard to come by with the tough Mid-Valley squad in front of them. Michael Soper, who started on the hill in the second game, saw 56-percent of his 97 pitches go strikes with four strikeouts against the strong bats of the Southpaws with Albany leading 3-0 entering the bottom half of the fourth inning.
But surely, the Dodger bats came around as they did the night before 30 minutes or so south from where they were at playing at Willamette University.
Noah Ferguson drove in the first Withnell run in during the bottom half of the fourth before a double play allowed Mid-Valley to get out of a jam in the fourth. Tanner Sorensen and Will DeLoretto both brought in runs in the bottom of the fifth to tie the game up at three apiece.
It wasn’t until the bottom of the sixth, with Cameron Kallhoff and Sean Webster in scoring position where Ferguson laid down a beautiful bunt down along the first base line that resulted in the Dodgers first lead of the series at 4-3.
“I saw the first basemen playing back and I’ve been working with Coach (Noah) Boat(wright) on push bunting so being able to use that in a game today felt pretty good,” said Ferguson who called the bunt at-bat in the sixth an opportunity to redeem himself after not being able to help out the last time he got the bunt sign.
Max Long hit a nice double that brought home both Webster and Ferguson to make the game into a three-run cushion in favor of Withnell entering the seventh inning up 6-3.
“We’ve been hitting the ball straight at guys kind of, it was just time that one fell and went somewhere they weren’t,” said Long who got his two RBIs on the game on that hit. “We were hitting the ball hard the first game, we doubled their hits and we lost by one so that was a tough one. But yeah, some just fell in and that’s just baseball.”
Mid-Valley wasn’t going to go down without a fight however, and got the bases loaded with two outs down 6-3 and were one swing of a bat away from taking a one-run lead. The Southpaws got it to within two against Soper before Ferguson came in for the save opportunity, and within three pitches the South Salem Ferguson got the final out of the game to help the Dodgers avoid the sweep and get at least one game from the League leading Mid-Valley squad.
“It was really crucial because we didn’t want to go back out and just have that chance that our bats did cool down, that last out was crucial for us,” said Ferguson knowing that momentum was up in the air at this point of the game.
Despite handing the Southpaws their second loss of the league season, Withnell sits 4-5 in league to Mid-Valley’s 9-2 with the Mid-Cost Dungies (Newport) and another dangerous hitting team in the Post 20 Dirtbags (Dallas) to close out the league season, the Dodgers need to use this series as a good stepping stone for those two series to help themselves into the Regional series round at the end of the month.
“It’s huge, it shows us that we need to hit the ball better/ We need to play defense better, we just need to tighten things up and once we figure that out, we’ll be a great team,” said Soper, who had four strikeouts in the game Wednesday.
DeLoretto struck out five in the doubleheader opener with Justin Culpepper having the lone extra base hit (Double) in the game. Long had two doubles in his two hits, Kallhoff’s one of his two hits was a double as well. Kallhoff, Long and Webster all had two hits each in the second game.