By ERIC A. HOWALD
Of the Keizertimes
After being dealt a 4-1 loss by the West Salem High School Titans on Tuesday, April 15, the McNary High School varsity baseball team rebounded to eke out two wins in tight contests.
“When you win close games, it builds confidence. It’s up to our team to remember what that feels like so we can overcome when those situations happen again,” said Larry Keeker, McNary head coach.
The Celts got the first run of the game with West, but it was also the team’s only one.
Jacob Wood was walked to start the game and advanced to second on a sacrifice fly by Mickey Walker. Wood rounded the bases on a single by Hayden Gosling and McNary went up 1-0.
Despite 17 first-pitch strikes in a complete-game effort, the Titans made the most of their five hits on pitcher Jordan Barchus and walked away with the win.
McNary returned to the field the following day to host the Sprague High School Olympians and the teams duked it out for 12 innings before Barchus singled to left field driving in Jacob Vasas for the 3-2 win.
“We were just trying to battle up and compete the best we could and that’s what we did,” said Celt Travis Klampe. “We had good defense down the stretch and shut them out after their last run.”
Sprague had a 2-0 lead when McNary got its turn at bat in the bottom of the third inning. Wood scored on a double by Walker to right field to cinch up the score to 2-1. In the next inning, Connor Goff doubled to left field, scoring Barchus and tying the game.
Klampe struck out two in a row in the top of the ninth inning with runners of second and third, putting the kibosh on Sprague’s best shot at winning. Three innings later, Tim Hays got the team started with a double and Barchus ended the game with his walk-off single.
“We had a stretch when neither team scored any runs, but we toughed it out and got the win,” Gosling said. “Our offense is starting to come around now, but we have to keep hitting and and keep getting stronger on defense.”
Barchus went 3 for 5 at the plate with two doubles and an RBI.
The Celtics’ game with McKay High School Friday, April 18, was more a matter of toughing it out after taking an early lead.
McNary got its first run in the bottom of the third when Matt Aguilar scored on a sacrifice bunt by Walker. The Royal Scots tied the game 1-1 in the top of the fourth inning.
In the bottom of the frame, Hays scored on a bases-loaded walk, Tristan Mistkawi and Vasas scored on a single by Wood, and Aguilar scored on a sacrifice Walker to take the 5-1 lead.
Gosling, as catcher, caught a runner stealing home in the bottom of the seventh. A ground out by the next batter ended the game.
Despite the confidence that comes with close wins, Klampe hoped the team could keep its focus on the present.
“We have to take it one game at a time and give it our all,” he said.
Keeker said the team would do well to acknowledge its strengths and build on them.
“We’re not the type of team with so much talent that we can walk on the field and beat somebody. We have to know who we are and play to our strengths,” Keeker said.