By DEREK WILEY
Of the Keizertimes
Jacob Jackson didn’t care where West Salem was ranked in the OSAA power rankings, certainly not when he ripped a home run over the left field fence, McNary’s first of the season, as the Celtics took down the fifth ranked Titans 5-3 on Tuesday, May 1.
“We don’t really look at the rankings,” Jackson said. “I know a lot of the guys on our team don’t care about that. We just see it as the next team up and go play as hard as we can and this win was huge for us. It was a great win against a really great team.”
McNary led for the most of the game as Collin Wentworth drove in Lance Becktel with a RBI single in the bottom of the first. Jackson’s home run to lead off the third then gave the Celtics a 2-0 lead.
“He threw me a breaking ball before and he had been doing that to the last couple of batters,” Jackson said. “Seeing his patterns I knew he was coming back with a fastball. He’s got good speed and he located it right were I like it and I just put a swing on it that I thought I could hit it hard.”
West Salem took the lead in the top of the fifth, scoring three unearned runs with two outs.
But McNary immediately answered in the bottom of the inning. Jackson walked and advanced to second to lead off the fifth. When Becktel bunted to the pitcher, Jackson was able to beat the throw to third. After Ty Covalt drew a walk to load the bases, Wentworth hit a ball in the left field gap to clear the bases and give the Celtics a 5-3 lead.
“He gave me a meat pitch and it felt good, especially against West, one of the top teams in our league,” Wentworth said. “It felt awesome to drive that ball.”
McNary wasn’t able to add to its lead thanks to botch squeeze play as Noah Bach missed the bunt, Wentworth was picked off third and David Allen was thrown out trying to take second.
But Carl Rumbaugh took it from there, allowing just one hit over the final two innings, to pitch a complete game and earn the victory.
“Carl’s been phenomenal his last three starts,” McNary head coach Larry Keeker said. “He’s been really good on the mound for us. The best part about this game was answering in the bottom of that (fifth) inning with good at bats to load the bases and Collin works the count for a bases loaded clearing double in the gap and just puts a good swing on a pitch and we’re right back in it.”
The win was the Celtics fourth in a row and sixth in their last seven games to bring their league record to 6-5 after starting Greater Valley Conference play 0-4. McNary swept Forest Grove 5-0 and 9-4 on April 25 and 26.
“It just validates the perseverance and the resilience that we’ve had the last few weeks and these guys have been really focused on getting this thing turned around because we all know we didn’t have a great start,” Keeker said. “We weren’t playing great baseball and as a coaching staff and as a team we said we’re not ever going a quit on this, we’re going to keep plugging away and keep our heads down and at some point down the road we’re going to play well. Right now we’re on a little roll and we want to keep it going.
“These guys now, every time we have something go right for us, it just helps our confidence, that’s the most important thing because when you’re confident and you’re calm, your at bats feel better, your defense feels better.”
West Salem entered the game 8-2 in league play and 16-4 overall.
“We beat a good team today. We feel good about it,” Keeker said. “There’s a lot of teams right there in the middle trying to fight their way into a playoff spot and we’re one of them and obviously today helps us.”
The Celtics host another top 10 team on Friday in No. 6 South Salem at 5 p.m.