By Jeremy McDonald
STAYTON, Ore.– The air quality had lowered just enough Friday to proceed with the Salem Baseball Academy’s weekend opener at Stayton High School Saturday morning between Stayton and Central High School.
With just enough time to trim the grass after two weeks of it sitting due to the poor air quality in the area, the Eagles Wyatt Connally and the Panthers Brandon Komes paced one another combining for 15 strikeouts in their three-and-a-third innings pitched respectively.
Central had just pulled to within 4-3 when Connally left the game in the top half of the fourth. Stayton answered, pushing their lead to three when Komes bowed out of the contest in bottom half of the inning.
Both Connally and Komes both were some faces Saturday at Stayton that played in the Willamette Valley Men’s Baseball League 16-plus league this past summer with the Stayton Bandits and Central Baseball Club.
“I think I did good. I got the outs, I didn’t let them score so that’s basically the objective,” said Connally, who struck out eight. “I think there’s things I could still work on, make it a little bit cleaner. It was good learning because we haven’t played baseball, live baseball, in about a year (as a team). So it was learning, getting back into the swing of things and just getting back out there and playing.”
“It was tough, but it having a month, month-and-a-half off from summer ball and getting some new freshman coming in. We’re still young and we’re trying to get back into it so a few games we’ll be rolling,” adds Komes, who added seven strikeouts of his own. “It’ll be good to see faster pitchers and more change-ups, more off-speed type stuff and it’ll be a good experience going into next year.”
Will Merrit got out of the inning with a groundout and line-out for the Panthers, keeping the game at 7-3. But the Panthers couldn’t duplicate their three-run fourth inning as the Eagles walked away with the 9-3 victory in game one.
Connor Choate struck out three in three-and-two-third innings of relief of Connally, Danner Salisbury recorded 3RBI’s on 3-for-4 hitting in the game.
Game two however, was one of those types of games that challenged a team’s mental and physical game.
Spanning roughly three hours, 35 runs were scored that made the back-end of the baseball doubleheader into more of a football score with Stayton winning 22-13.
“It was a really developing game for our team. It was good to see our team getting back out there getting reps,” said Stayton’s Tanner Manning. “Everyone was in the game the whole time, which was really nice. There’s other games in where you kind of fade off after a while, so it was really great. Everyone stayed in the game the whole time, kept hyped. It was really nice.”
Manning and Connor Hollenbeck each drove in 3RBI’s in the second game to lead the Eagles against Central. Answering Brayden Foreman’s and Colton Farr’s three-hit games for the Panthers, Stayton rebounded from Central’s ten-run third inning to score 15 of the games next 16 runs. Turning a 12-7 deficit into the 22-13 final result over the final four innings of play.
Photos By Jeremy McDonald