(This article was originally published on JMcDonaldMedia.com)
By Jeremy McDonald
SALEM, Ore.– With the Mountain Valley Conference lead up for grabs after Sprague’s 11-1 win Thursday to bring the Olys to within a two-way tie with South Salem at 6-2 in league, the question became who will walk away with the conference lead with three league games to go?
Miscues in the second inning allowed Sprague to jump out to a 1-0 lead thanks to a Brett Hassoun sacrifice fly that was the lone run in a relatively low-scoring game between the two rivals in the Saxons 4-2 win Friday evening.
But hey, all it takes is a play or two to turn a game around like it did Thursday, and it happened in the fourth inning for South Salem by way of four-runs that helped support Ryan Brown on the bump defensively.
“It was huge, Ryan was dealing for us and it all started with our plate approaches I think,” said Danny Alvarado. “We all went up there with the mentality to attack a fast ball, but (Michael) Soper was good with the curves today so we didn’t swing it like how we wanted to throughout the game. But we had one big inning where he was shaky and we were on him. He came after us and we delivered.”
Alavardo’s RBI double that drove Ryan Brown home tied the game up at one. Kaiden Doten handed the Saxons a 2-1 lead before Greyson Hanowell’s two-run Homerun in a four-run fourth inning that pushed South Salem into the lead that stood entering the seventh inning.
But that’s when things got interesting when Brock McMullen and Matt Astley got on base with no outs and the Saxons going to the bullpen looking to do some damage.
“This game meant a lot because you don’t know who’s going to win league,” said McMullen who singled in the seventh inning. “We’re still going to grind out here the rest of the season, this loss doesn’t mean anything. We’re going to feel it for sure because we were so close, but the rest of the season we’re going to build off of this.
“Towards the end when we started to get to the pen and we started to build up in the dugout and from second base I could hear them. It wasn’t like that before, but as we started to score and we got going. We just got to find a way to find that energy when we’re down.”
Sprague closes out the league season with McNary Tuesday and a doubleheader at Summit Saturday.
Elijah Enomoto-Haole, who came in for relief for Ryan Brown a batter into the seventh, got the first out by strikeout. But loaded up the bases by walking Kyle Hinchcliff.
McMullen scored off a pass ball. Enomoto-Haole got Jackson Hildebrand to fly out for the second out only up 4-2 with the tying run at second.
But Enomoto-Haole forced Ethan Johnson to ground-out to end the game and hand the Saxons back the lead in the league standings with West Salem and a doubleheader versus Mountain View to close out the league season this upcoming week.
“Yesterday really opened our eyes in how where we should be and how we couldn’t be complacent. We’re a better ball-club, but we didn’t play like it. They outplayed us in every aspect of the game yesterday,” said Brown, who struck out six on Thursday’s game. “We came out today with a fire underneath us.”
Thursday’s game serves as a good reminder as Friday’s game did for Sprague that there’s still work to be done down the stretch entering the playoffs.