Chris Burger sends a bunt aloft in McNary’s game with South Salem High School last week. (KEIZERTIMES/Eric A. Howald)

By ERIC A. HOWALD
Of the Keizertimes

After a string of losses, the McNary High School varsity baseball team rekindled some of the spark the team showed during its preseason outings with a come-from-behind victory over the South Salem Saxons.

“Our non-conference games were big for us and we had that same energy and focus against South,” said Celt Jon Stong.

McNary rallied from a 7-0 deficit to the second place Saxons to score eight runs in the fifth and sixth innings to take the 8-7 win.

“We had every reason to hang our heads, but we stayed positive. It was attitude more than anything else. We started stringing some hits together and it rejuvenated our spirits and we held on for the win,” said Larry Keeker, McNary head coach.

Justin Gardner went three four four at the plate with a double, Spencer Rice and Ty Wyatt went two four with Wyatt notching three RBIs and a double.

“Spencer didn’t have the night I’m sure he wanted, but we backed him up strong on defense down the stretch,” Stong said.

Prior to that game, the Celts fell to West Salem High School, 7-4, on Tuesday, May 3. McNary struggled on the mound and defensively in the early innings as the Titans took a 3-0 lead.

“We just haven’t played our best games against either West or North. If we don’t play our best games against teams like that we’re going to have problems,” Keeker said.

McNary scored a single run in the fourth and added three in the sixth, but couldn’t catch up.

Garren Robinett went two for three at the dish with an RBI and Justin Lowe went two for two with a double.

The Celts lost to league-leading North Salem High School the day before in an 18-0 drubbing.

“We just couldn’t hit the ball,” said Celt Justin Burgess. “We did okay on the mound and defensively and couldn’t get it going offensively.”

The Vikings pounded out at least three runs in all but one inning, the Celts’ sole hit came from the bat of Justin Gardner.

McNary faced Sprague High School in a game to decide the Central Valley Conference’s fourth seed in the state playoff game Tuesday, May 10, and emerged with a 12-6 win. The game was highlighted by a solo shot from Robinett and a grand slam by Kyle Knight.

In the remaining weeks of the season, the Celts were somewhat divided as to what the team needed to improve on the most.

“Coach has got us doing a lot of hitting, but we have to mentally get ourselves more prepared,” Burgess said.

Stong thought defense early in games needed a shot in the arm.

“There will be five runs and then a bunch of zeros after that on out [opponents] scores. If we can erase that five, we’ll be good.”