By Jeremy McDonald
MONMOUTH, Ore.– The pressure is now on entering the final week of the American Legion Triple-A season.
For the first four innings of Friday’s series finale between Post 20 and Corvallis in the Marketmen’s series clinching 7-1 win, it had the makings of what the previous three games had billed:
Close games with it coming down to an error or a hit to decide the outcome.
Kaleb Kantola, who had a few tough pitching appearances recently, had looked like he’s snapped out of it with the postseason right around the corner with six strikeouts in the first four innings of work and picked up his seventh to start the fifth inning. The game was tied one-apiece.
“It was good. We came out ready. We gave up a run, then we got a run, I was throwing pretty good,” said Kantola.
Thursday’s make-up games resulted in Corvallis taking a two-games-to-one lead on the Dirtbags and knocked them a further off the pace with Withnell opening a two-game lead for first-place to start the day.
The Dodgers dropped Game 3 of their series with Newport Friday 4-0 before taking Game 4 11-5 so a Post 20 win Friday would have kept them within one game of Withnell for the League Title entering their series Tuesday.
But for the Marketmen, who got some more pip in their step with those two wins, knew they were now within reach of hosting a sub-state series beyond next week had other plans.
In that fifth inning, scored six runs and took advantage of the hiccups by Kantola pitching and timely hits against the Post 20 defense. By the time Kaden Reidhead, who came in for relief for Kantola, forced a pop-out to Blake Arritola for the final out of the inning the game was at a 7-1 advantage for Corvallis.
Frustration was there no doubt, but they just need to take a deep breath and relax out there on the diamond.
“I was just mad at myself because I was walking people. I didn’t do good in the fifth inning,” starts Kantola. “We just got to get back to the baseball that we’ve been playing. We’ve been putting way too much pressure on ourselves for no reason and we just need to hit like we use to because we’re not putting up enough runs to win.”
The offense produced nine hits, but only produced one run in Friday’s game. It was two days ago that they scored six runs to win the series opener versus Corvallis, and with Withnell winning eight of their last ten games and 19 of their last 22 since starting the season 5-7, the Dirtbags know that they need to take a deep breath if they are to win the series next week.
Winning three games or sweeping the series would give them first-place outright.
“We have a couple of days off, a few days rest and we’re going to practice. We’re going to get everybody right, everybody healthy and get ourselves mentally and physically ready to play a good four game series next week,” said Arritola, who had three of Post 20’s nine hits. “Give ourselves a chance to play in the State Championship Tournament.”
Photos By Jeremy McDonald