FRANKLIN — Chase Basham picked a good time to hit his first home runs of the season.
Salado’s sophomore third baseman smacked a pair of round-trippers Saturday afternoon, including a two-run shot in the bottom of the sixth inning, to help lift the Eagles to an 11-1, series-clinching win over Nacogdoches Central Heights in Game 2 of their Class 2A Region III semifinal series.
“They left it over the plate,” said Basham, who also hit a three-run homer to pretty much the same spot over the left-center field wall in the second inning. “I just swung as hard as I could. As soon as I hit it I knew it was over. It was the first time I ever hit a walk-off, so it was a pretty good achievement for me. It feels amazing (to be moving on).”
Salado (27-8-1) got a solid pitching performance from senior side-armer Britton Hawes (10-2) as the Eagles advanced to the regional final for the second consecutive season. They’ll face the winner of the Garrison-Troy series next week at a site and time to be determined.
Hawes gave up one run and three hits in six innings. He struck out three and walked one.
“I just let the contact work. I didn’t have too many strikeouts,” Hawes said. “As a pitcher, you just want to let your defense work. That’s what I went out and did, let them do their thing. It always feels good to advance another round. But then again, the next opponent is going to be better, so we can’t take them lightly.”
For the second consecutive game, Salado put up four runs in the first inning against the Blue Devils (22-13).
Central Heights starter Zach Johnson faced just three batters, walking Keaton Mims and giving up an RBI single to Caden Eary and a base hit to Basham, before being replaced by Sheldon McCown. Casey Frazier added a sacrifice fly, and Jacob Little had a two-run double as the Eagles took a 4-0 lead.
The Blue Devils got their only run in the top of the second. Back-to-back Salado errors and a bunt single by P.R. Johnson loaded the bases. After Brent Dawson flied out to right for the inning’s second out, Hawes walked Zach Dortch to bring in the run. Hawes then got Jake Ellis to ground into a fielder’s choice to end the inning. Hawes allowed just one hit the rest of the way.
“We had a few mishaps in the field, but that’s going to happen every now and then,” Hawes said. “We worked around it. One run scored with the bases loaded that second inning. I’m not going to complain. The defense did their job. I had a lot of help from the outfield. The bats were there, too. They came when we needed them.”
Basham hit his three-run homer in the bottom of the second. The Eagles added a run in the third on an RBI double by Barrett Snyder and one in the fourth on an RBI single by Davis Little to make it 9-1. Basham put the 10-run rule into effect with his two-run homer in the sixth that ended it.
“It feels good to play at the level we’re playing,” Salado head coach Chad Krempin said. “We got a good pitching performance. It wasn’t an easy day to come here and pitch. It’s not going to be easy the next two rounds as well. It gets hot, it gets steamy this time of year.
“I was proud of Britton. He settled in and did a real nice job. The offense just kept playing. We just kept putting runs on the board almost every inning. I feel real good about where we’re at right now.”