By Jeremy McDonald
SALEM, Ore.– The Central baseball team treated Tuesday’s non-league game with South Salem as a playoff game with their approach. Jumping out to a 4-2 lead after the first inning and making things interesting down the stretch in the Saxons 13-11 home victory at Willamette University. Taking away the lesson in doing the little things along the way that could’ve swung the game into their favor instead of the way it did.
“We came into this, we knew they were a tough team and we knew that they were a fast-ball hitting team. So we had to knit-pick around the zone to get them on some calls. They got some great eyes, Just a great hitting team, it was hard because we got to hit our spots and we got to have more than one pitch in the zone, But I think we got the defense to back us up and I think we could get these guys if we played them again. We treated it like a playoff game…if we just do the basic stuff, I think we’ll be fine and I think we can go out and beat any team in the State,” the Panthers Will Merrit said.
But working through those tough moments. Cutting the initial 4-0 Central lead to 4-2 by innings end, taking the lead soon after and building an 11-4 lead going into the fourth inning before the Panthers began chipping away at the deficit towards the end of the game.
After trading a run in the fourth, Central scored six of the game’s final seven runs over the final two innings and had the tying run at first before getting the final out of the game to extinguish the Panthers late game push on South Salem’s Senior Day.
“We got into a little bit of trouble but we worked through it and that’s how we’re going to do in the playoffs is just working through it. It’s an important win coming towards the end of the season too, how we can’t let it get away with any sort of lead, especially through playoffs. So it’s good, especially on our Senior Night, we were able to go deep into our lineup and work through it together,” the Saxons’ Daschel Smith said. “Just keep doing what we’re doing and we got our guys coming onto the mound coming up with these last few games and playoffs, just our players doing sort of our own thing and doing their thing that they’ve been doing all season. They’ve been producing and we believe in them and we believe in us.”
Central awaits their postseason fate as they picked up the fourth-and-final automatic qualifier playoff berth out of the 5A’s Mid-Willamette Conference while the Saxons will play two more games before the postseason Wednesday and Thursday against South Eugene and Barlow on the road.
Photos By Jeremy McDonald