McNary pitcher Logan Ready fires to the dish (KEIZERTIMES/Matt Rawlings).

After defeating defending league champion South Salem two days prior the McNary baseball squad sputtered in their following matchup against West Salem.

Despite gaining a four-run advantage in the first inning the Titans scored 15 of the next 16 runs and defeated the Celtics 16-5 on Wednesday, April 21.

“It is pretty simple, we gave away too many free bases — by the pitching staff and the defense. When you mix in a pitching staff that is having trouble finding the zone and a West Salem team that is such a good hitting club, it’s going to be trouble. They made us pay for all the free bases,” McNary head coach Larry Keeker said.

McNary pitcher Logan Ready retired the side with ease in the top of the first, throwing just seven pitches. In the bottom half of the frame, with a runner on first and one out, Celtics outfielder Trevor Thompson hit a ground ball to second, which appeared to be a tailor-made double play. But the ball trickled into the outfield after the second baseman booted the ball, keeping the Celtics threat alive.

“They gave us a gift and we took advantage,” Keeker said.

Hayden Kaiser got the Celtics on the board with a Texas League single down the left field line. Aaron Nease followed by scorching an RBI-double to left field. The next batter, Griffen Hubbard, hit an opposite-field single to left field that scored two runs and extended McNary's lead to 4-0.

However, in the top of the second, the wheels began to come off for McNary due to errors and missed opportunities.

After Ready issued a free pass to start the frame, the next batter hit a sharp ground ball to McNary third baseman Trevor Ratliff for a double play opportunity. Ratliff fielded the ball cleanly but struggled to get the ball out of his mitt, and the Celtics only got the force out at second.

An error by second baseman Eben Mayer gave the Titans runners on first and second with one out. Mayer caught a hard-hit line drive on the next at-bat and had a chance to double the runner off of first, but a bad throw got by Carter Hawley at first base and the runners were able to tag up and advance.

Two batters later, John Kenny hit a soft liner into left center field that fell for a two-run single.

“The disappointing part was that we put up that four-spot, and then literally gifted them two runs with poor defensive play the next inning. It took the momentum completely away,” Keeker said.

Things went from bad to worse in the top of the third for the Celtics as West Salem put up a six-spot in the frame thanks to a trio of free passes and a three-run triple by Kenny, putting West Salem on top 8-4.

“Our entire pitching staff needs to work on getting command of their pitches and be able to hit spots,” Keeker said. “It was a terrible game for us, but sometimes you need a little reality check.

McNary got a run back in the bottom of the third when Hubbard tattooed a pitch over the center fielder's head, scoring Nease from first.

It appeared that it would be a stand-up double for Hubbard, but the senior outfielder didn't touch first while rounding the base. Hubbard went back to touch the bag, then tried to advance, but was thrown out at second to end the inning.

“At that point in time, (Hubbard’s) RBI made it 8-5. It was an unfortunate situation because he would have been standing on second. At that point we could have gotten a two-out hit and maybe our mojo changes a little bit, but that obviously didn't happen,” Keeker said.

After giving up an infield single and a walk in the top of the fourth, Ready was subbed out for Dante Olivo, but the senior right-hander wasn't able to fare much better as the Titans built their lead to 11-5.

The Celtics cycled through a trio of pitchers in the top of the fifth. After four free passes, it looked as if Mayer, who was the third pitcher to throw in the frame, got out of a bases-loaded jam when a two-out fly ball was hit to right field. But Hubbard, the right fielder, struggled to track the ball and was unable to make the play. With runners moving on the crack of the bat, all three scored on the play to give West Salem a double-digit advantage.

“There were just too many defensive miscues and not enough command from our pitching staff,” Keeker said.

McNary will look to bounce back on Monday, April 26 when they take on North Salem.

Matt Rawlings: [email protected]