TAYLOR— Salado head coach Kreece Cooper admitted Tuesday night’s game felt like a playoff game.
Both Jacob Wilk and Joel Cruz were nearly untouchable.
In the end, Tate Harvey and Rustin Hale’s back-to-back singles proved to be the difference in the game as the Eagles defeated Taylor 3-1 in a pivotal District 19-4A game.
Salado (13-11-1, 7-3 19-4A) used a two-out rally in the third to get on the board first. After a strikeout and a pickoff, leadoff hitter Drew Dobbins singled, which brought up Ryan Oakes.
After two wild pitches, Oakes hit a 2-2 pitch up the middle for a run-scoring single.
On the mound, Wilk got ahead of 16 of the 24 batters faced and used his breaking ball and off-speed pitches to keep the Ducks off balance.
Wilk went six innings, allowing just four hits, while striking out eight.
“Jacob is just a tremendous competitor. He’s not going to back down to anyone,” Cooper said.
“Even though he gave up the triple in the sixth, he got right back up, and got the next guy to give us a chance there in the seventh.”
On the other side, Cruz went toe-to-toe with Wilk going 6 1/3 innings, allowing just three hits, while striking out 12.
After Taylor (16-6, 5-4) tied the game on a two-out Cruz triple in the sixth, the Eagles knew that it was their game to win.
After Cruz retired the first hitter in the seventh, he was removed due to pitch-count limitations.
Christian Larson took his place on the mound, and the Eagles greeted him with two runs.
Kade Maedgen singled, Parker Seaton walked, then Cooper decided to go to his bench.
Harvey smashed a hard shot to right field for a one-out double, which scored pinch-runner Garrett Knight.
“Tate should be in the starting lineup, but he is such a great kid. I told him that if we get a runner on, you’re going to go in there and hit. He was amped up all night and I knew he was going to come through for us right there.”
The next batter, Hale, lined a hard shot to left for an RBI single, which gave the Eagles a 3-1 lead they would not see go away.
Dobbins took over for Wilk and worked around a hit batter to get a groundout to third to end the game.
“We needed this win tonight. This really helps us going forward locking up that second spot in the district,” Cooper said.
“We lost to Liberty Hill twice and lost to these guys last time, and to get one of these wins feels great.”