MADISONVILLE – Salado cashed in its best opportunity, Huffman Hargrave missed chances and the Eagles have a leg up in the teams’ Class 4A Region III semifinal best-of-three baseball series.

Max Marin’s two-run double to right-center field kick-started a six-run fourth inning, left-handed pitcher Ryan Oakes stayed sturdy through early troubles and Salado downed the Falcons 8-2 in Game 1 on a steamy Thursday night at Mustang Stadium.

Game 2 is slated for 5 p.m. today at College Station High School with Game 3, if necessary, to follow. The winner advances to face Jasper or Robinson in the Region III final.

“It’s huge,” Salado coach Kreece Cooper said of the victory. “Now, not that we get to be relaxed, but we’re a little more dialed in. We’re not playing on our heels, we’re not pressured, none of that.

“We’re just going and playing again. So, it’s really good for this group.”

The Eagles (27-3-2) mostly were quiet versus Hargrave (21-11-1) right-hander Tyler Price through the first three innings but quickly loaded the bases in the top of the fourth via Kade Maedgen’s single up the middle, Price beaning Mac Miller and Caleb Self’s perfect bunt down the third-base line that hit the bag to stay fair. Marin followed with his double for a 2-0 lead. Self scored on a wild pitch to make it 3-0, Jacob Wilk drew a bases-loaded walk for 4-0, it was 5-0 after Price was called for a balk and Rustin Hale’s sacrifice fly to center chased in Dalton Hawes for a 6-0 cushion.

“That inning I told them ‘If you get it to the top (of the lineup) were going to put a crooked number up and it’s going to be the difference in the game.’ And they did,” Cooper said.

Salado added two more in the sixth with Hawes’ RBI sacrifice fly and a wild pitch.

Hargrave, which had its leadoff hitter on base in four frames but left 12 runners on -- including seven through the first three innings -- plated its two in the bottom of the seventh on a balk and an RBI single by Matthew Dorcz.

Oakes allowed the two runs on 12 hits and struck out six in a complete game.

“He left some pitches up early but got dialed in later on,” Cooper said.

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