A game of cat and mouse didn’t go Mid-Valley’s way on July 13.
The Rockets fell behind by two in the fifth inning and could never get back to even with Withnell in a 7-5 loss in American Legion Area III play at Memorial Stadium.
Twice, in the sixth and seventh innings, Mid-Valley scored to close within one run. But the visiting Dodgers, of Salem, had answers both times.
In a matchup of teams battling for playoff seeding, Withnell played the cleaner game after tying the game at 2-2 in the third.
“The defense really got us after we caught it back up, and that allowed them to stretch it a little bit,” Rockets coach Troy Babbitt said.
Mid-Valley (18-14, 6-4 Area III) answered Withnell’s run in the top of the first with two in the bottom.
The Rockets loaded the bases with one out before Evan Cyrus’ sacrifice fly and Jacob Miller’s RBI single to left put the home team in the lead.
The Dodgers (5-2 Area III) tied it up with a run in the third and went back ahead with two in the fifth with help on a Mid-Valley fielding error.
The Rockets closed the deficit to one in the sixth on Jayce Lien’s sac fly after Alex Pynes reached on an error and Jordan Luttrell singled. Withnell answered with two in its next at bat on a double, triple and single to open the frame.
Mid-Valley got those two runs back in the bottom of the seventh to again get within one. A Pynes double and Lien single produced the scores.
The Dodgers scored a run in the eighth, chasing Rockets starter Curtis Zamora before Max Long continued his strong day at the plate with a two-out RBI single off reliever Ty Norlander.
Long went 4 for 5 with two doubles and two RBIs. Teammate Alex Roberts had three hits, including a triple, and two RBIs.
Jake Rappe, Miller, Pynes and Luttrell all had two hits to lead Mid-Valley. Lien had a team-high two RBIs.
Babbitt credited Zamora with throwing strikes and getting outs. Zamora struck out six with no walks while allowing 14 hits with one hit batter.
Pynes said it was a positive seeing his team continuing to stay competitive each time Withnell would extend its lead.
“We battled hard when we gave up a couple and then we’d answer back. It says a lot about our team to stay in a ballgame like that,” he said. “That’s a good ballclub over there, and we know we’re a good club, capable of beating those guys.”
The Rockets have just five games left to improve their playoff seeding.
That began on July 14 with a doubleheader against Withnell at Willamette University in Salem. Mid-Valley finishes the regular season with three games this week against Corvallis, which entered Wednesday leading the league.
Every game remaining is a big one. The Rockets will likely need to win at least three, and probably more, to get a home game in the regional playoffs.
“It’s a long day but we’ve got to come out and battle hard and try to get both those games and give ourselves a chance going forward into the Corvallis series,” Pynes said.