SPRINGFIELD — Both American Legion baseball coaches with arm-weary pitching staffs chose not to stretch the rubber band any tighter Friday night.
Willamette Valley’s Kevin Alexander and his Corvallis counterpart, Evan Hilberg, agreed to monitor their scheduled nine-inning game in progress and shorten it if necessary. They decided during the sixth, right after the Marketmen had taken an 11-4 lead, that seven innings would do.
The Titans then sent 10 men to the plate and rallied for six runs in their half of the sixth, but Corvallis came away with an 11-10 victory at the Hamlin Sports Complex.
The Titans (13-20) were coming off a long road trip and an Area 4 doubleheader loss at Medford that got them home early Friday morning. The quick turnaround to play Corvallis (16-14), an Area 3 team, was Willamette Valley’s 14th game in 13 days.
The Marketmen never trailed and finished with 13 hits, but the Titans answered with 11 of their own and saw the game end with the tying run on base.
“They were pretty tired getting back from Medford late,” Alexander said, “but they came out and stuck with it (after) getting down early in the game. (They) kept swinging the bats, getting on base and working themselves back in it.”
Corvallis opened with four runs on three hits, a walk and an error against Willamette Valley starter Wyatt Sayles, a right-hander who gritted through four innings with a swollen index finger on his pitching hand. He exited with the Titans trailing 7-4 after giving up six earned runs with two strikeouts and a walk to take the loss.
“He’s done a great job on the mound for us in relief,” Alexander said of the senior-to-be at Cottage Grove. “It was hard for him to go out there and compete for us, but he did.
“He settled down after the first inning and was able to figure it out and get the ball in the strike zone.”
The Marketmen, who at 7-5 are second to the Mid-Valley Southpaws of Albany in Area 3, scored three times off Titans reliever Tristan Vidal in the fifth and once in the sixth. The 4-5-6 hitters for Corvallis — James Anderson, Logan Williams and Ben Leid — each had three hits, and together they scored six runs and drove in five.
Williams’ RBI double in the sixth proved to be the game-winning hit, and he then retired the Titans in the seventh to earn the save.
Yet, that was after Willamette Valley came to life in the sixth against left-handed reliever Aaron Osborne with a leadoff bunt by Trevor Duran, a walk to Chase Elliott and another bunt by Vidal to load the bases. Bryce Boettcher walked to make it 11-5 and, after a nifty 3-2-3 double play by the Marketmen, Kaden Miller singled to bring home Vidal.
Micah Burke’s RBI single cut it to 11-7 before two hit batters and a wild pitch accounted for the last three of five runs the Titans scored with two outs.
Corvallis starter Ryan Hall went five innings to pick up the win. He gave up four runs on six hits and struck out three.
Vidal went 3-for-5, scored three runs and drove in two to lead the Willamette Valley attack. Trey Nelson was 2-for-3 with an RBI, and Boettcher, Miller, Burke and Brennan Erickson each drove in a run.
Willamette Valley is tied for fourth with Grants Pass at 5-7 in the six-team Area 4 standings with eight games to go. After two much-needed days off, the Titans will play back-to-back doubleheaders against Roseburg Doc Stewart’s this weekend before finishing their regular season against the Nuggets next week. The top four teams qualify for postseason play, and those four head-to-head games with Grants Pass likely will determine fourth place.
“If we just take care of our own business, then we’ll make sure that we’re in,” Alexander said. “That’s basically where we’re at, making sure we take care of our side of the deal and not worry about anybody else.”
Challengers down Australian team, 11-7
GRANTS PASS — The Eugene Challengers came to life in the late innings to earn an 11-7 victory against the Perth Heat Colts, a visiting team from Australia, in American Legion baseball action Friday.
Eugene scored three runs in the eighth and ninth innings to hold off the Colts, who also saved most of their offense for the late innings. Peyton Bracy led the Challengers with three hits and three RBIs, and Lucas Jackson was 2-for-5 with two runs scored.
Dane Woodcook and Griffin Lavassaur each went 2-for-4 for Eugene.
The Challengers continue to travel south this weekend where it will play Siskiyous American Legion in Mount Shasta, Calif., on Saturday and at the Medford Mustangs on Monday.