The Salem High baseball team is in the state Class 4 semifinal. The Spartans will play host to Fauquier on Friday at 1 pm at Kiwanis Field with a spot in Saturday’s state championship game on the line.
The Salemites defeated visiting Woodgrove on Tuesday to keep their state championship hopes alive. The Wolverines jumped to an early lead before Salem starting pitcher Zian Honaker shut the door.
Honaker, a sophomore lefty, struck out the first two batters in the game. The next two doubled and homered to give Woodgrove a 2-0 lead, and Honaker hit the next batter then walked one to make it first and second. He got out of the jam with his third strikeout of the inning and Woodgrove wouldn’t score again.
“He got a little nervous after that home run, but then he settled down,” said Salem coach Wes McMillan. “He still lets things bother him, but he’s getting better. He was on the varsity as a ninth grader and I think that really helped.”
The Spartans came firing back in the bottom of the inning to take a lead they wouldn’t relinquish. Joseph Quinn knocked in the first run with a double to the leftfield corner and Hunter Clifton’s clutch, two-out single drove in two more to give Salem a 3-2 lead.
Salem scored a single run in the third, then got a couple gifts in the fourth. With runners on second and third Parker Stallard struck out on a low pitch. The umpire said the catcher caught the ball, which meant Stallard was out, but Parker wasn’t sure and ran toward first. The Woodgrove catcher threw the ball back to the pitcher, assuming the out, but with Stallard running to first the Woodgrove pitcher threw to first to make sure, and threw wildly allowing a run to score. Jadon Fetrow followed with an infield hit on a very close play at first as another run scored for a 6-2 Salem lead.
Meanwhile, Honaker allowed just one more hit. McMillan lifted him with two outs in the sixth with his pitch count at 89.
“If he was at 99 pitches he would need four days rest, and we want him available for Saturday,” said McMillan. “We felt 89 was close enough.”
Caleb Lingenfelter relieved and needed just one pitch to get a ground ball and end the inning. Salem scored an insurance run in the bottom of the sixth on a two-out dropped fly ball off Stallard’s drive to right, and Lingenfelter set the Wolverines down in order in the top of the seventh.
Honaker finished with five strikeouts and combined with Lingenfelter to yield only three hits. Fetrow was three-for-four for Salem with two stolen bases and two runs scored. Clifton had two hits and two runs batted in and Quinn had two runs batted in.
With the win Salem improved to 17-3 overall and Woodgrove ended the season at 19-7.
“They were favored to win the state,” said McMillan. “They have guys going to Virginia Tech and Radford and Roanoke College.”
Salem was playing at home because the Spartans beat Amherst County in the Region 4D final last Thursday at Kiwanis Field. Salem beat Amherst, 3-2, behind a solid pitching performance by Lingenfelter. Caleb went the distance, fanning four and allowing just four hits.
Salem trailed 2-1 after four innings but tied the game in the fifth when Austin Sowers led off with a triple and scored on an infield out. Lingenfelter helped his own cause with a single in the bottom of the sixth. Jack Hudson ran and moved around to score the winning run without the benefit of another hit, coming home on a passed ball.
Amherst played at Fauquier on Tuesday and dropped a 3-2 decision to the Falcons. McMillan was yet to have a book on Fauquier as of Tuesday but had two days to do some research with the state semifinal scheduled for 1 pm Friday at Kiwanis Field. Lingenfelter will start on the mound for the Spartans.
The state championship is Saturday, also at 1 pm, at Salem Memorial Ballpark.