McNary falls just short against Sprague

Alex Simpson sprints down the life after hitting a hard ground ball to the left side. Simpson went 2-for-4 in the contest, but the Celtics still fell to Sprague by a score of 5-4 (KEIZERTIMES/Matt Rawlings).

Despite getting the tying and go-ahead runs on base with one out in the top of the seventh, the Celtics couldn’t push either one across as the McNary baseball team fell to Sprague 5-4 on Tuesday, May 7.

But considering that they were going up one of the top teams in the Mountain Valley Conference shorthanded, McNary head coach Larry Keeker was pretty pleased with some of the things that he saw from his club.

“I was really proud of the way we battled offensively today to make it a close game,” Keeker said. “There was a lot to like about what we did in this game.”

The Celtics were without two of their best players in Jacob Jackson and Nigel Harris — who have missed the last three games for McNary after getting injured at practice last week. Jackson is dealing with a knee issue, while Harris is recovering from a high ankle sprain.

Jackson is the Celtics starting shortstop and is third on the team in hitting with a .329 average (minimum 10 at-bats). Harris, who starts in the outfield, is batting .312 and has proved to be one of the Celtics most reliable relief pitchers.

Not having either play could be costly for McNary as they head down the stretch of the regular season.

“(Jackson) is in his third year of varsity baseball and is one of our captains, so obviously losing him off the field makes a difference,” Keeker said. “And Nigel came off two really good pitching performances for us, so losing him really hurts.”

“Now there are opportunities for other guys, so they’re going to have to step up and makes some plays for us.”

Devon Bedoya got the start on the mound for the Celtics and made a habit of getting himself out of tough situations.

Sprague had the bases loaded and nobody out in the bottom of the first. But after giving up a sacrifice fly to Michael Soper, Bedoya ended the inning by forcing two straight popouts.

The Olympians scored two more in the bottom of the second, but McNary finally responded when they came to the plate in the top of the third.

Ian Martin hit a one-out single up the middle to get the Celtics going, then advanced to second after Sprague pitcher Will Deloretto’s pick off throw got past the first baseman and went into right field.

Martin would later score on a sharp RBI-single to left field by Robert Benson, trimming the deficit to 3-1.

Bedoya gave up another run in the bottom half of the frame, but would help out his cause at the plate when he came to bat in the top of the fourth.

Singles by David Allen and Jamison Martin, as well as a walk from Noah Bach, allowed McNary to load the bases with one out when Bedoya stepped to the plate.

The senior smoked a line drive up the middle that glanced off Deloretto’s glove and found its way into center field, allowing the Celtics to cut the lead to one with the two-run single.

Alex Simpson was retired for the second out of the inning on an infield pop-up, but Martin picked up his teammate and drove an opposite-field RBI-single to right field to tie the game at 4-4.

“Once one person gets on, it just starts a chain reaction and everyone gets their confidence back,” Martin said.

Sprague regained the lead with a run in the bottom of the fourth and was looking to get some insurance runs in the bottom of the fifth. The Olympians had the bases loaded with nobody out as Bedoya appeared to be running out of gas.

But after retiring the next hitter on a popout, Bedoya forced the following batter to hit into a 1-2-3 double play, getting his team back into the dugout unscathed.

“Devon gave us a really gutsy performance to be honest,” Keeker said. “He had to deal with a lot of traffic on the bases and a lot of stressful innings.”

“It was huge for us to make a big play in a big moment like that.”

Rennick Jeffries pitched in relief of Bedoya in the and also got out of a bases loaded jam in the bottom of the sixth to give his team a chance to extend the game in the top of the seventh.

With one out in the frame, Simpson and Martin hit back-to-back singles to put McNary business. However, that would be as far as the Celtic threat would get as the next two hitters, Alex Tavera and Benson, would each fly out to end the game.

McNary hopes to end Mountain Valley Conference play on a good note as they travel to Bend on Saturday for a doubleheader with the Lava Bears with the first game starting at noon.

“We just have to come focused and ready to play,” Martin said.