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Indians rally eight runs to win season opener

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Molalla grabs 8-6 win over 5A Silverton after going down 3-0 in first inning

PIONEER PHOTO: CONNER WILLIAMS - Molalla junior Braden Hibbs takes off after hitting a deep fly ball to left field that drove in a run during the Indians' 8-6 win over Silverton on March 18 at Scio High School.

Hopefully the Indians brought some comfortable shoes for their season opener against Silverton, because they sure did a lot of walking.

Silverton's pitchers walked 12 batters on Saturday, essentially handing the game to the Indians who just wanted some decent pitches for a shot at putting the bat on the ball.

Senior Aaron Alexander took the mound as the Indians' starting pitcher and only allowed one earned run all game. He struggled a bit off the bat as he hit the Foxes' first batter.

PIONEER PHOTO: CONNER WILLIAMS - Molalla senior Aaron Alexander started on the mound for the Indians during their 8-6 win over Silverton on March 18 at Scio High School. Alexander only allowed one run in his five innings pitched.

Then Silverton senior Andy Dummer took the plate and drove the ball to deep left field for a standup double to drive in a run, taking the lead 1-0 early on.

Senior Brice Shippen took the plate third and hit a grounder through the gap to left field for a single as Dummer advanced to third.

Alexander kept his composure as he struck out the next two batters; the Indians had a chance to end the inning with two runners on base. But a past ball resulting in a pickle at third backfired when Alexander overthrew freshman Linden Mackenzie at third, allowing both runs to score as Molalla went down 3-0.

Alexander struck out the next batter as the inning finally came to an end; now Molalla had to make up some of the damage after the Foxes nearly got through the batting order in the first inning.

Sophomore leadoff Jeff Larsen was walked in four pitches along with senior Trevor Miles as eight straight balls made their way over the plate.

PIONEER PHOTO: CONNER WILLIAMS - Molala sophomore Jeff Larsen makes a play at shortstop as senior Trevor Miles backs him up from second during the Indians' 8-6 win over Silverton on March 18 at Scio High School.

Alexander came up third and faced a full count, but he too was walked as the bases were now loaded as cleanup batter junior Braden Hibbs took the plate.

Hibbs hit a fly ball to deep left, allowing Larsen to tag up and score as the runners advanced to second and third.

Mackenzie and junior Hunter Dublin were both walked to drive in another run to make it 3-2 Silverton, and senior Will Schaefer popped one up in front of the plate as the Foxes found two outs.

Freshman Damian Pingo took the plate in the eighth spot, hitting a floater to shallow left that was caught to end the inning as the Indians left two runners on base.

After a solid first inning, Silverton couldn't do much at the plate until the top of the sixth inning when Molalla was already up 8-3. The Indians tied the game at three in the bottom of the second as Alexander hit a sacrifice fly to right field while freshman Casey Brooks tagged up and scored.

PIONEER PHOTO: CONNER WILLIAMS - Molalla junior Hunter Dublin makes a catch in shallow right field during the Indians' 8-6 win over Silverton on March 18 at Scio High School.

In the bottom of the third, Dublin was hit by a pitch and Schaefer was walked as Silverton's starting pitcher hit the bench; he had already thrown about 70 pitches in less than three innings. But Silverton's next pitcher couldn't do much better as he walked Pingo to load the bases with no outs. Then Brooks was walked to drive in a run and give Molalla a 4-3 lead as Silverton had now walked 12 batters just three innings in.

Then Miles took the plate and hit a grounder to first as Larsen scored and Molalla took an 8-3 lead with one out.

Then Silverton made a shifty double play as senior Alex Hopkins took off for first on a drop third strike; he was thrown out by the catcher as the runner at third took off for home but was thrown out to end the inning.

Silverton had a chance to get a rally going in the top of the fifth as they had runners on first and third with two outs, but Alexander struck out the next batter looking to end the inning.

Left-handed Dublin took the mound as Alexander moved to shortstop while Larsen took over at third and Mackenzie moved to right field.

Silverton capitalized on a past ball as runners advanced to second and third, when head coach Jim Dantona called a timeout to talk to Dublin. Dublin then walked the next batter as the bases were now loaded. The next batter hit a pop up to second for the second out, but the next batter hit a short floater that dropped into shallow right, allowing two runs to score; it was now 8-5 Molalla as they were able to end the inning on the next batter.

PIONEER PHOTO: CONNER WILLIAMS - Molalla junior Matt Roark wings up for a pitch in the top of the seventh as he looks to get the save during the Indians' 8-6 win over Silverton on March 18 at Scio High School.

Miles and Alexander got on base right away in the bottom of the sixth, and Hopkins was walked as the bases were loaded. Junior Matt Roark took the plate for Mackenzie as he hit a ground ball to third, allowing Alexander to be thrown out at home for the force out and Roark to be thrown out at first for a double play.

Dublin took the plate and struck out looking; the Indians couldn't convert as they left two runners on base.

Dublin took the mound again in the top of the seventh looking for a save as the Indians just needed three outs to win the game. Another past ball drove in a run to make it just a two-run game, at which point Roark took over on the mound.

He came in on a full count, but the batter popped the ball up to center field as Schaefer made the catch for the first out.

A grounder to second by the next batter was thrown out by Miles for two outs. Roark walked the next batter as the tying run stood on first base, but the next batter hit a pop up to shallow center field as Alexander made the catch to end the game and secure the save for Roark.

PIONEER PHOTO: CONNER WILLIAMS - Molalla junior Matt Roak cheers after clinching the save for the Indians.

After the game, Alexander talked about his first start and having to take on a 5A team in the season opener.

"Having to play a 5A team to start the season is no easy task," he said. "I believe beating Silverton gave us a lot of confidence that we are ready for any team and we'll put up a fight."

Alexander said he discovered some things he needs to work on at practice after his first start, but he's happy the team got the win.

"It really felt good to get a game under our belts," Alexander said; the Indians' first two scheduled games were rained out.

Alexander then commented on the Indians' new leadership under first-year coach Dantona.

"Everyone is loving coach Dantona," he said. "He has brought a whole new method with him and it's really clicking with our team; he and our new staff have brought a lot of energy with them and we're all feeding off each other. I'm really excited for the rest of the season."

Molalla is scheduled to take on Stayton at home at 4:30 p.m. on Tuesday, but the weather's forecast calls for rain.

PIONEER PHOTO: CONNER WILLIAMS - Head coach Jim Dantona talks to the team after the game.


Conner Williams
Sports Reporter/News Contributor
503-829-2301 ext. 341
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