SALADO — Whether you want to call it tinkering or making adjustments, No. 2 Salado isn’t afraid to shake things up a bit.
A couple of minor changes paid big dividends Tuesday evening as seniors Reagan Bazar and Jon Franz altered their game just a tad and sent the first-place Eagles to a 7-3 win over Little River-Academy and pull within a win of the District 22-2A championship.
Salado (24-3-1, 10-1 22-2A) plays runner-up Cameron Yoe on Friday, with a win locking up the 22-2A title with two games to go.
“We wanted to secure a playoff spot but obviously our goal is the district championship ... so (it’s about) every game that gets us closer to that,” Salado head coach Chad Krempin said. “They’re always really special and you have to work hard (to get one), especially in this district.”
Bazar, battling nerves and a hanging curveball, changed his grip after some early struggles and registered eight of his nine strikeouts over a 10-batter stretch between the third and fifth innings for the win while Franz adjusted to a lineup switch and came through with one of his best hitting games of the season.
“I came back into the dugout after the third inning and I knew I had to make an adjustment, (so) I was trying different grips out and I found one I liked and I ran with it,” said the 6-foot-7 Bazar.
As major league scouts from Atlanta, Milwaukee, Pittsburgh and the Texas Rangers watched from behind home plate with their radar guns and judging eyes, Bazar settled in after allowing a first-inning run on two hits to hold Academy hitless from the second to seventh inning, before surrendering three straight hits to open the final frame as the Bumblebees added two more runs.
Franz, the Eagles’ shortstop and usual No. 3 hitter, had been in a bit of a slump the last few games — if you can call batting 1-for-4 in a game a slump.
But, after a little number crunching by Krempin, Franz was moved up a spot in the order and got back to what he does best — driving in runs.
Franz, in his second game batting out of the No. 2 hole, busted out with a 3 for 4 night, knocking in four RBIs, two on a two-run triple in the bottom of the sixth to cap Salado’s scoring.
“Hitting in the lineup, it doesn’t matter what spot I’m in. I trust coach, wherever he puts me I’m just going to try and produce every time,” Franz said. “Tonight I just saw the ball well and hit the ball well compared to the other nights when I was going 1-for-4 or 1-for-5.”
Tied at 1-1 entering the bottom of the third, Britton Hawes worked a five-pitch walk, Caden Eary and Trey Mohler followed with singles — Mohler beating out a bunt to first — to load the bases with no outs for their big hitter.
Franz didn’t make them wait very long, of course, ripping the first pitch he saw from Academy (17-9, 5-6) lefthander Caleb Hill for a two-RBI single between short and third to open things up a bit. Mohler added one more run scoring on a dropped pop-out to short by Davis Little, who also added an RBI double in the fifth.
“Those guys in front of me battled till the end and I knew that with no outs, I didn’t want to let my team down, I had to at least get the ball on the ground and score a couple of runs,” Franz said. “On that first pitch, I knew he didn’t want to get behind in the count, so that first pitch he gave me a good pitch and I hit it to (right).”