Zane Aicher connects with a pitch against Sprague on May 10 at Sprague High School. (JOSHUA MANES/Keizertimes)
Back-to-back home runs in the first inning couldn’t hold up for McNary baseball on Tuesday, May 10, at Sprague High School.
The 6-5 loss was the sixth one-run loss of the season for the Celtics, and the second in a row.
The day started off looking bright for McNary. In the top of the first, Cooper Cripe hit a two-run home run to open up the scoring.
Hayden Kaiser followed up with a homerun of his own, putting McNary up 3-0 early.
“Those guys were ready to go at the plate,” head coach Larry Keeker said. “Cooper and Hayden got good pitches to hit and they did what the three and four hitter should do. They put a good charge into it and today they happened to go out and get us off to a good start.”
Sprague starting pitcher Quinn Altman settled down after the first, holding the Celtics scoreless for the next four innings.
Meanwhile the Olympians bats provided support.
Grant Strother responded in the bottom of the first with a two-out, two-run home run. Sprague threatened to score more in the first, loading the bases after two singles and a hit batter.
Carter Hawley responded on the mound for McNary, forcing a fly out to end the inning.
Hawley went 3.2 innings for McNary, and was responsible for five runs.
“Carter did a good job battling,” Keeker said. “Our defense has been real good this year, and I think they had four or five of their runs on defensive plays where if we make the play we’re out of the inning. It’s nobody’s fault, just if we make those plays we’re in a different ballgame.”
Some of those key plays happened in the fourth inning. Hawley was pulled with two on and two outs for freshman Jordan Araiza.
A ground ball under shortstop Eben Mayer’s glove tied the game at 3. A bases loaded walk made it 4-3, followed by a balk from Araiza for failing to come to a complete stop and Sprague was up 5-3.
The Celtics tied the game back up in the sixth inning. Kaiser led the inning off with a single, and later scored on a passed ball. Ben Allen then tied the game up at 5-5 with an RBI single.
The Olympians responded in the bottom half of the inning. With two outs and runners on first and second, an RBI single gave them the 6-5 lead.
McNary had a chance in the seventh.
Cripe had a one-out double with Kaiser coming up behind him.
But just as the Celtics had seen earlier in the season, their opponent wasn’t going to let Kaiser make a difference late in the game, and gave him the intentional walk.
With the lead run on first base, Mayer struck out for the second out of the inning.
Zane Aicher came to the plate, and nearly gave the Celtics the lead. Aicher's deep fly to center was caught just a few steps away from the wall.
“A matter of a centimeter on the barrel, that ball might be out of the park for a three-run homer,” Keeker said.
The one-run loss was the sixth one-run loss for the Celtics this season.
They just split a doubleheader with Mountain View High School on Saturday, May 7, where both games were decided by one score.
“Just so many small things that have really made a difference for us this year,” Keeker said. “But moving forward, we have three more baseball games and are going to continue to compete.”
And looking ahead to those final three games, Keeker said the focus is still on winning.
“We’re trying to win baseball games all the way to the end. Play good baseball, try to get in the postseason somehow some way. After that anything can happen. We’re going to battle until we can’t play anymore.”