Entering July 19, just one game separated the Gerding Builders Marketmen and the Mid-Valley Rockets in a battle for third place in the Area III standings.
The team that finishes third will get to host a three-game super regional for a trip to the state tournament. So each game in their three-game series takes on more importance.
The Marketmen took charge early on July 19, and fended off a Rockets rally to take the first game of the series, 11-3. The teams meet for a doubleheader at 4 p.m. on July 20 at Hansen Stadium at Taylor Field in Corvallis.
“We allowed them to come back a little bit but hopefully we’re starting to see this team stay ahead once they get ahead,” Corvallis coach Kirk Myrold said.
The Marketmen got eight innings of work from starting pitcher Darren Crosby, who dominated over the first several innings and struck out seven before hitting a rough patch late in the game but still earned the win.
“The first innings are the most important because they haven’t seen you and I tried to see what they could and couldn’t do and it worked,” Crosby said.
Corvallis capitalized on a two-out error and plated a run as Isaac Kulonis brought around Zach Humphreys to score and break the scoreless tie in the second.
Gerding Builders wasn’t done as it got back to the plate in the third and strung together five straight hits off Mid-Valley starter Logan Nousan. All five hits shot through the right side of the infield.
Three runs came around to score in the third and one more in the fourth to give the Marketmen a 5-0 lead.
After Corvallis’ Zach Zalesky homered in the seventh, the Rockets started to build a rally. Alex Pynes drilled a shot over the left field fence to score Mid-Valley’s first run and the Rockets would score again as Evan Cyrus drove in Jacob Trader.
Momentum started to shift as the Rockets got another run, making the most of Lebanon player Jake Rappe's lead-off double. Mid-Valley seemed like it was right back in the game at 6-3 with one inning to play, but things came unraveled in the ninth.
“It gave us some momentum there but (Crosby) came back after that and got some outs which is what you have to do,” Mid-Valley coach Troy Babbitt said.
The Marketmen had already driven in one run when Derrick Porter was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded. Tielar Murray, 0 for 4 at the time, put the game away by sending a pitch deep to left center for a grand slam and 11-3 lead.
“I was seeing everyone else hit the ball all over the yard and it felt great finally being able to hit the ball hard,” Murray said.
Murray then came on to pitch the bottom of the ninth and set down the Rockets in order to end the game. The win tied the teams in the standings but with the important first win going to Corvallis it gives them the edge to take third place.
“We have to come out and make the routine plays and continue to play hard. We just have to play them one at a time,” Babbitt said.
Mid-Valley must win both games of July 20 doubleheader to take third while Gerding Builders only needs one of two to claim the series win. The results of that game were not available by press time.