The Thayer Bobcats took advantage of a seven-run second inning at the plate, while getting five strong innings from a freshman on the mound, to push past the homestanding Salem Greyhounds 12-10 April 7.
Ninth-grader Garrett Smith picked up the win for the Cats, allowing seven hits while walking two and fanning three. John Tollenaar closed the book for Thayer by working the last two innings, striking out four while giving up four hits.
It looked as though the visitors would be the first ones to scratch the scoreboard in the non-conference border battle.
Jacob Eckman tried to swipe home from third on a ball in the dirt, but Greyhound starting pitcher Chad Willett covered the plate perfectly, taking a toss from catcher Derek Estes to tag a sliding Eckman out at the dish in the top of the first.
The Estes/Willett combo turned out to be as good offensively as they are defensively, as they were responsible for giving Salem a quick lead in the bottom of the frame.
Estes (RBI) brought Willett home with a fielder's choice that staked the Hounds to a 1-0 lead after one.
Undaunted, the Bobcats posted seven runs in the top of the second, establishing a lead they would maintain for the rest of the afternoon.
Dustin Gaines (hit, RBI) drove in Thayer's first run of the day on a hit to center that plated Andrew Brown.
It was Luke Martin's (two hits, two ribbies) turn next, and he delivered with a blooper that fell just behind short, bringing Smith in to score.
Willett was a bit off on this day and he walked the next three Bobcat hitters, two with the bases loaded, bringing in two more Thayer runs. This signaled the end of Willett's time on the mound, as he gave way to Dusty York. Willett gave up just two hits, but walked six and hit one in his time on the hill for Salem.
Tollenaar (single, double, five RBIs) greeted York by blasting a hit to right that brought in two more runs for the Cats, pushing Thayer on top 7-1.
Salem jumped right into the fray by crossing the plate three times in the home half of the frame, keeping Thayer from running away with things.
Derek Batterton (two singles, double, two ribbies) lay claim to two of those runs for the Hounds by slamming a double to center that scored Corey Tyler and Wes James.
Josh Sisler (two singles, two doubles, four RBIs) drove in Salem's next run, drawing the Hounds within three, 7-4, after two innings of play.
The offensive show ground to a halt over the next two innings, as neither side could advance the scoreboard.
That changed in the top of the fifth, when Thayer added four runs to its total.
Luke Martin brought Smith around to score on a fielder's choice for the first Cat run of the frame, but it was Tollenaar who once again swung the big stick for Thayer.
With the sacks juiced and two outs, Tollenaar stepped into the box and crushed a double to deep center that plated three Cats, extending Thayer's advantage to 11-4.
As it turned out, the Hounds had an answer for Thayer's four runs in the top of the inning.
Sisler racked a standup-double that scored Batterton and Willett to get the Hounds going in the home half of the inning.
Alex Smith followed that with a double that brought in an additional run for Salem, pulling the Hounds closer, down 11-7 heading into the sixth inning.
After keeping Thayer quiet in the top of the sixth, thanks in part to an inning-ending 6-4-3 double-play, Salem added another run in the bottom of the sixth.
Sisler's second stand-up double of the contest plated Willett for the second time, and Salem had cut Thayer's lead to three, 11-8, after six.
The last inning was highlighted by a pair of home runs, one for Thayer, one for Salem.
Eckman (double, homer, two ribbies) drilled a York offering 329 feet over the fence in right/center for Thayer's lone run of the seventh.
Not to be outdone, James took Tollenaar deep in the bottom of the frame, jacking a shot over the 336-mark in center that was good for two ribbies.
Despite James' yard job, the Hounds were still a pair of runs short, as Thayer posted a 12-10 victory.
Tyler, Willett and Logan Henley all hit safely for Salem.
Ben Martin and Andrew Brown singled for Thayer, while Smith recorded a double and Justin Brown logged an RBI.