By ERIC A. HOWALD
Of the Keizertimes
The McNary High School varsity baseball team was likely thanking its lucky stars for pitchers after the team’s Central Valley Conference opener Friday, April 11.
The Celtics won 1-0. While junior Mickey Walker kept the Saxons at bay from the mound, McNary scored the only run of the game on a wild pitch by South’s Sam Tweedt.
“Any time you can get a win against a pitcher like Sam Tweedt, you’ve got to be happy,” said Larry Keeker, McNary head coach. “But we were under duress a number of times and managed to get out of jams.”
The critical inning for the Keizer team was the fifth. Jacob Wood led off at the plate with a walk and advanced to second on a sacrifice fly by Matt Aguilar. Walker struck out swinging on the next at bat, but Wood took third and then made it home on two wild pitches by Tweedt.
On the defensive side of the game, the Celts had three double plays that proved crucial, Keeker said.
McNary had only three hits in the game off the bats of Wood, Tim Hays and Hayden Gosling.
“It was hard to see it in the stats, but we were battling at the plate and ratcheting up Tweedt’s pitch count,” Hays said.
The team had 14 strikeouts. Walker allowed just two hits with five strikeouts in six-and-a-third innings pitched. He had 11 first-pitch strikes from the bump.
The game ended on a diving catch by Jordan Barchus, who also caught a runner off third base.
Keeker said the team is still struggling with a consistent mental approach to the game. The results have been moments of greatness followed by frustration.
“The consistency comes from flushing the bad things that happen. If you go up to the plate and you’ve struck out twice, you have to approach it like it’s your first at bat and your first swing,” said Wood. “You just have to learn from everything else.”
Lagging offense led to a 6-1 loss for the Celtics in their last preseason game against Canby High School Wednesday, April 9.
“Our energy just wasn’t very good, we came out flat,” Hays said.
Canby had a 1-0 lead when the Celts stepped back to the dish in the bottom of the third inning. Suing was hit by a pitch and advanced to second on a hard grounder by Walker that went back to the pitcher. Suing scored on a single by Jordan Barchus.
McNary rarely threatened for the remainder of the game. Canby added to its lead with a pair of two-run innings in the sixth and seventh.
“We have to have a better approach at the plate,” Wood said. “We need to have everyone focusing on the game and watching the pitcher way before we go up to bat.”
Suing led at the plate going 2 for 2. Barchus went 2 for 4 with an RBI.
Travis Klampe pitched five innings for McNary allowing three hits and four runs. Suing closed out the game from the mound allowing three hits and two runs in two innings.