FRANKLIN — It was as if some of the fastballs slowed down for Marshall Mann.
Cole Haag said he just had a heightened focus, while Jon Franz credited a little extra time in the batting cages.
Whatever it was, the second-ranked Salado Eagles found their groove at the plate, raking 16 hits — including six run-scoring doubles — and run-ruled Anderson-Shiro 12-2 in five innings Saturday in a Region III-2A area round playoff game at Franklin High School.
“I don’t know how to explain it really, we saw a lot of fastballs today and we’re a really good fastball-hitting team,” said Mann (3 for 4, two RBIs), Salado’s senior third baseman. “So we saw good pitches to hit and put good swings on them and hit a lot of line drives.”
Salado (29-3-1) advances to play Centerville in the Region III quarterfinals at a time and place to be determined.
The Eagles won their 13th straight game by doing their damage in bunches, registering at least three hits in four of the five innings and stringing together three consecutive hits in three of those innings.
“Once somebody goes up there and gets a hit, it kinda fires up the whole team — it gets us going — and if you get a hit and then another hit, it sets off a chain reaction and everybody’s on fire,” said Franz, who was 2 for 4 with three runs and three RBIs, including a pair of RBI doubles.
The majority of the production came from Salado’s middle of the order — the Nos. 2-5 batters — who combined to hit 12 for 16 (.750) with five doubles while knocking in 10 of the Eagles’ 12 runs.
“That’s what the middle of the order is suppose to do for you,” Salado coach Chad Krempin said.
Junior catcher and No. 3 hitter Haag was a perfect 4 for 4 at the plate with three RBIs, including a single on the first pitch he saw to spark a two-run, two-out rally in the top of the first inning. After pinch runner Jake Bloomer stole second, Mann ripped a full-count double down the third-base line to score him, and then Casey Frazier — the Eagles’ starting pitcher — needed only one pitch to trade places with an RBI double to shallow center field.
“It was just fun, whenever you have everybody in the lineup doing something, moving guys over, getting base hits, it’s fun and the whole team gets energized,” Haag said.
Frazier finished 3 for 4 at the plate with two RBIs and was effective on the mound despite struggling a bit with his control, scattering two hits over five innings but walking five — four via hit-by-pitches.
“It’s the shakiest I’ve seen from him in awhile. He couldn’t find his breaking ball today,” Krempin said. “They put a couple of good swings on him but we’ve got a good defense and we made a couple of nice plays (there).”
Salado continued to hit in the second, when No. 9 hitter Caden Eary ripped a one-out RBI double to left-center and then scored on a two-out RBI double by Franz to spark a three-run second and pull back on top 5-2 after Anderson-Shiro plated two runs in the bottom of the first on just one hit.
After a quiet third, the Eagles’ bats exploded for a five-run fourth inning when Salado’s first six batters reached base, capped by back-to-back-to-back RBI singles by Haag, Mann and Frazier. Davis Little followed with a one-out RBI single of his own to make it 10-2 but was tagged out trying to turn it into a double for the inning’s second out.
Franz and Haag capped the run-rule in the top of the fifth with back-to-back RBI doubles to score Trey Mohler and Franz. Mohler also flashed his glove, wrapping up the game with a nice, clean bow when he made a sliding catch near the wall in left-center field for the game’s final out after back-to-back hit-by-pitches by Frazier.
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