BELTON — Salado got all the runs it needed in the first inning Thursday night.
The Eagles put up five in their first turn at bat and made those runs stand up in a 5-0 win over Clifton in Game 1 of a Class 2A Region III quarterfinal playoff series at Mary Hardin-Baylor’s Red Murff Field.
“You’ve got to win two, so it’s definitely nice to get the first one,” Salado coach Chad Krempin said. “(Eagles starter) Britton (Hawes) did a good job tonight. We had a good first inning and after that we just kind of blew some opportunities to execute and score some runs. Hopefully tomorrow we’ll come out and continue to put pressure on them throughout the game.”
Davis Little got the Eagles’ scoring spurt going when he slapped a two-out, two-run triple to right field. Casey Frazier followed with an RBI double, and Jacob Little and Drew Van Winkle added RBI singles to give Salado (25-8-1) a big cushion early.
“Any time you can have an inning like that, it’s really nice,” Davis Little said. “I just went up there, not trying to do too much, just trying to get a base hit. It was nice, especially with two outs, to get five runs.
“Clearly, it was important because the bats started slowing down after that inning. But tomorrow, we’ve got to come out and play better and hit the ball all game like that. If we can hit the ball all game like we did (in the first inning tonight), no one can keep up with us.”
The Eagles were helped in the first by three walks by Cubs starter Zach Potts and three errors by Clifton (22-13-1). Potts settled down after the rough first inning, allowing three hits the rest of the way.
“It’s deflating any time a team comes out and puts four or five runs on you,” Krempin said. “It’s tough to recover, especially when you know the other team has a good pitching staff.”
Hawes (9-2) was happy to get the early run support.
“(Getting the early lead) is really important because then I can go out there and pitch and kind of control the game. At that point, you can pitch around people, you can pitch right to them. There’s not as big of a (weight) on your back. You’re not trying to carry everything at once.”
Hawes pitched a complete game, striking out five, walking two and scattering five hits.
“I let my defense work,” Hawes said. “I’ve got to give props to them, they backed me up. It was a good defensive day. I just let them catch the ball, let them do what they do.”
Krempin also was happy with the Eagles’ defensive effort.
“(Clifton) hit the ball hard. We actually made some nice defensive plays,” he said. “Overall, I’m pretty proud of the way we played. That’s just baseball sometimes. We’ll come back tomorrow and hopefully execute better in those spots and get some better swings on balls with runners in scoring position.
“Sometimes when you get a lead early like that, it seems like that happens. You just lose a little bit of your edge. Hopefully we find that again tomorrow and we can get out of here after two (games).
The Eagles will look to close out the series tonight when they send their ace Frazier to the mound in Game 2 at 7 p.m. at Waco ISD Sports Complex.