BELTON — All it took was one good inning, some superstitious magic, and freshman reserve Cody Wolf spending a little time in the bathroom.
As players took turns holding the dugout restroom door closed, the Eagles scored nine runs in the fourth inning. They then held on for a 9-3 victory over rival Troy in Game 1 of a best-of-three Region III-2A final series Wednesday at Mary Hardin-Baylor’s Red Murff Field.
“It seems like any time (Wolf) is not paying attention, something big happens, so we locked him in the bathroom the majority of the game — that’s where he was when he hit our shots,” Salado junior Caden Eary said.
Eary drilled a three-run home run over the left field wall in the fourth to put the Eagles ahead for good and now a win away from returning to the Class 2A state tournament.
Salado smacked two home runs — the three-run shot by Eary and a two-run bomb by fellow junior Casey Frazier — and rolled up nine runs on five hits. A two-RBI double by Davis Little tied the game at 2-2 after Troy mounted an early 2-0 advantage in the bottom of the first inning.
“Any time you can put a crooked number up there like that, put that many runs on the board, … we just put the barrel on the ball that inning and put good swings together to piece a great inning together,” Salado head coach Chad Krempin said.
After the way Salado (33-5-1) swung the bats in the fourth, Wolf can probably expect to see more time in the bathroom Friday for Game 2 and, if necessary, Game 3 as Troy (29-10-2) tries to even the series by throwing senior left-handed ace Jon Malmin in Game 2, 5 p.m. at UMHB.
Salado is expected to throw either one of several options while saving Frazier, the team’s ace, for a potential must-win Game 3.
Eagles junior sidearm pitcher Britton Hawes was the hero from the mound Wednesday, earning the win despite not entering until the second inning by tossing six innings of three-hit ball with seven strikeouts.
Coming in already trailing 2-0, Hawes did what his predecessors couldn’t and just threw strikes, working a 1-2-3 inning throwing eight of his nine pitches for strikes.
“I’m a pressure guy, every time I come in with the bases loaded it tells me I have to get it done, there’s nothing on the line to me,” Hawes said.
Things seemed bleak early as Eagles senior starter Reagan Bazar walked four of Troy’s first five batters and the Trojans took advantage for two runs in the top of the first inning before Krempin pulled him with just one out.
Cody Proctor entered and issued a walk to load the bases before Hawes saved the inning with a diving catch of a line drive to second and then doubled up Troy’s Hayde Nattke at second to get out of the jam.
“I made that play and I thought, ‘We have a chance, we can do it,’ our motto’s ‘grind mode’ and we’ve done it (before),” Hawes said.
The big fourth inning started when senior Marshall Mann drew a five-pitch walk and Frazier doubled to set up Little, who ripped a 2-0 pitch right past the outstretched glove of diving Troy second baseman Matt Ellis to tie it at 2-2.
After getting caught looking at a third strike his first at-bat, Eary pulled a 1-2 pitch over the left-field wall in his second go-round to score Little and Coby Giniewicz and chase Troy starter Nathan Schleede after 3 1/3 innings.
But Salado wasn’t done. Senior Jon Franz drew a two-out walk, courtesy runner Garrett Lightfoot scored on an error by Trojans first baseman Payton Stanford and fellow courtesy runner Jake Bloomer touched home on an RBI-single by senior Marshall Mann.
Frazier then ripped a 1-1 fastball over the left-field fence to make it 9-2.