By Jeremy McDonald
ROSEBURG, Ore.– Sprague’s Chris Rogers bases loaded single capped one of those ‘Welcome to State’ games as the Salem Withnell Dodgers weathered the storm of the Emerald Challengers to start the American Legion Triple-A State Opening round Saturday.
And to little surprise between the two great squads at Bill Gray Legion Stadium at Champion Car Wash Field that the Dodgers 4-3 win over the defending Oregon State Champions went into extra innings either. Both teams lived up to the hype and traded blows in what was overall a defensive battle.
The Dodgers had build a 3-0 lead going into the seventh, but slowly built that lead with a ground out RBI by the Olympians Brandon Stinnett in the third, a Brady Stoops (Sprague) RBI single in the fourth and a Rylan Webster (Western Christian) ground out in the fifth as the Olys Grant Strother went six innings with eight strikeouts.
“We’ve played a lot of close games this Summer. Personally I don’t find it much different, it’s a big win for our team. We need to win five of them down here, so it’s one of hopefully many,” Strother said. “As a pitcher, you can’t go in there feeling the pressure because you’ve already lost. Just put up zero’s and give our team a chance and get the bats going a little bit more.
“I felt like we had good at-bats, we squared up the ball pretty well. We’ll get it going tomorrow against the Barbers.”
Withnell will play the Hillsboro Barbers Sunday afternoon at 4pm, the Barbers rallied to defeat the Post 58 Crushers 10-7 Saturday morning in Roseburg. But to get to Day 2 of the Winners Bracket, they had to withstand the Challengers rally.
“We’re just going to have to chip away. We’ll see some good arms with that Barbers squad, so we’ll have to do our thing. Timely hitting is going to be really important, we’re going to have to play good defense, pitch a good ball game and that’s all we can control,” said Rogers.
In the top half of the seventh inning, Emerald wheeled off three runs to tie up the game at three. Withnell managed to load up the bases on the Challengers but Cruz Martinez, who came in during the seventh inning in relief of starting pitcher Kaden Starr, got out of the jam.
Brody McMullen, who came in during the seventh inning and shut down the rally, turned a three-up, three-down inning to give his offense another crack at Martinez and his submarine pitching style. It was the second time around in which the Dodgers had capitalized on the opportunity that the Emerald pitcher and his defense gave them. Eventually reloading the bases with one out thanks to a Cole Weiland (South Salem) single, Stoops reaching on base and Stinnett being intentionally walked. Giving the middle infielder known as C-Rog his golden opportunity.
“It was awesome. That was my second time seeing that pitcher and second time through I had seen what he got, so I figured middle-away and hit something into the outfield and score a run. One out, that’s all I could do,” described Rogers.
Photos By Jeremy McDonald