COLLEGE STATION — Chad Krempin wouldn’t have scripted it any other way.
Having spent much of the Region III-2A quarterfinal series uncharacteristically struggling with runners on, Salado’s season came down to one man and one at-bat. Two innings after an errant throw nearly cost his team its season, Salado senior Marshall Mann redeemed himself — and the second-ranked Eagles — in heroic fashion.
“That guy, in that situation, that’s exactly who I wanted up there,”Krempin said.
With two out and two on in the top of the eighth inning, Mann ripped a 2-0 fastball for a triple to right-center field, plating fellow seniors Trey Mohler and Jon Franz as Salado held on for a 7-5 extra-inning win over Centerville in Game 3 of their Region III-2A quarterfinal series Saturday.
“Marshall, he saved us, he really did,” said Franz, who bear-hugged Mann after he made a diving stop and threw to first for the series-clinching out.
The victory completed a doubleheader sweep for the Eagles, which shut out the Tigers 4-0 in Game 2 behind a complete-game gem from junior ace Casey Frazier.
Salado (31-5-2), which tied its record for wins in a season set during the 2008 2A state championship season (31), advances to the Region III-2A semifinal to take on Elkhart, which swept Warren in their quarterfinal series.
“You just have to depend on your senior leadership and your kids,” Krempin said. “I challenged them a couple times, and they accepted it.”
Salado’s usually sharp defense was shaky at best in the fifth inning when a pair of two-out walks by senior starter Franz ballooned into a three-run collapse as the Eagles’ 5-2 lead disappeared in the blink of an eye.
Franz got two quick outs in the fifth before a five-pitch walk turned into an RBI double by Game 1 hero Jordan Cannon.
Following another walk, Franz was replaced junior Britton Hawes, the hard-luck loser in Game 1 on Friday.
A mental miscue by catcher Cole Haag loaded the bases and a Hawes induced ground ball to short resulted in another run scoring when Franz erroneously assumed second baseman Caden Eary would cover for an easy flip.
The lapse in judgment allowed one run to score and keep the inning alive when a second straight ground ball slipped past Franz to tie the game at 5-5 before a fly-out to right ended the inning.
“I’m used to Britton being at second, I’m used to fielding the ball and counting on Britton to be there,” Franz said. “But in my head I guess I wasn’t really thinking clearly.”
Despite the blown lead, a makeshift Salado pen held its own despite not pitching much this season as relievers Drew Van Winkle and Cody Procter worked 2 2/3 scoreless innings despite twice allowing runners to reach third base with one out or less.
“He has some pitches that people don’t see every day,” Krempin said of the rarely-used Proctor, who induced three consecutive pop-outs — including two to end a Centerville threat with runners on second and third in the bottom of the seventh.
Salado 4, Centerville 0 — With his team needing a victory to stave off elimination, Eagles junior ace Casey Frazier was what he’s been for 22 of the 23 games he’s pitched — lights out.
“You know what you’re going to get with Casey, he’s like the Powerball lotto, there’s no chance those guys are going to score many off him — not today,” Krempin said.
Frazier (9-0) stifled the Tigers for seven innings, scattering five hits while striking out six in the complete-game shutout, only allowing two Centerville runners to get past second base. Frazier improved to 22-1 all-time in two seasons with Salado.
“If somebody wants to flip us one game, good luck,” Krempin chided.
And with Frazier dealing, a struggling Eagles offense got just enough with a three-run fourth inning.
Bryce Martin scored pinch runner Keaton Mims on a bunt single, Davis Little touched home when Tigers right fielder Wacey Brown dropped a pop fly, and Trey Mohler plated Martin from third on a single to left field, all with one out.
Mims, who ran for Frazier (2 for 3), also scored on a second-inning RBI-fielder’s choice off the bat of senior Reagan Bazar, the Game 1 starter.