Rain denies Spartans chance to play for conference crown

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Salem’s Riley Fox rips a hit in a recent Salem game. PHOTO BY BRIAN HOFFMAN

Last week’s ill-timed run of bad weather served to rain on the parade of the Salem High baseball team, as the Spartans were washed out of a chance to win the Conference 24 championship. Instead, that trophy was handed to Bassett.

Salem and Bassett were scheduled to play in the Conference 24 championship at Martinsville’s Hooker Field last Wednesday. That game was rained out and rescheduled for Thursday, figuring a little sun would be enough to dry the outfield at Hooker Field, which has an artificial turf infield.

Salem was all ready to play on Thursday, but the call came that the outfield was still too wet to play. Bassett had graduation on Friday when things dried off, and opted out of that day as well. So, with the regional due to start Saturday, Bassett was awarded the top seed for the coming Region 4A West tournament because the Bengals, at 19-2, had a better record than Salem’s 14-6.

Salem fans and parents didn’t see that as fair, and understandably so upon closer examination. While the Bengals indeed were 19-2 they ran up a bunch of those wins against Group 2A competition, while Salem didn’t play anyone lower than Group 3A all season. Bassett didn’t play a single game against a Conference 24 opponent while Salem was 7-0 in the conference and had non-conference games with strong teams like Lord Botetourt, Hidden Valley, Blacksburg, Cave Spring and others. What’s more, the Spartans had history on their side with two conference championships in the past three years.

By not playing the championship game Salem was deemed the second seed from Conference 24 for the regional, with a trip to Lynchburg to play E.C. Glass on Saturday followed by a game at Kettle Run on Monday, the top ranked Group 4A team in the state. Meanwhile, Bassett was awarded a first round bye and a home game Monday.

“Our parents were irate,” said Salem coach Wes McMillan. “I don’t want to say anything to get me in trouble, but I just don’t think that was fair. If we lose on the field, fine, but when you don’t even get to play the championship game you’ve worked hard to get to all season, that’s not right for the kids.”

Salem ended up losing to Glass on Saturday morning, 4-2. Trevor Austin pitched his heart out and allowed just six hits but took the loss. John Stover had two hits, including a double, and Riley Fox and Vincent Pinello had one hit each.

“We should have beat Glass,” said McMillan. “If we get a couple bunts down we win that game. We’re as good as they are, probably better.”

Glass went on to beat Kettle Run on Monday, 6-4, and Bassett lost at home to Freedom-South Riding, 7-3.

“We had a good enough team to go the state, but things just didn’t work out,” said McMillan, as the Spartans finished 14-7 for the season.