Wildcats celebrate lifting Alex Phillips into the air after Phillips hit a walk-off single Saturday, giving Salem a 4-3 win over Mt. Zion. (Photo Courtesy Greg Maxey/SCHS Wildcats Sports photos)
Salem Secures Share of Apollo After SweepThe Salem Wildcats swept the Mt. Zion
Braves Saturday in Salem to claim at least a share of the Apollo Conference
Zach Tate scored the Wildcats' only runs in the opener as Salem won 2-1. Tate
had two singles and used smart base running around some errant pitching to
score the two runs the Cats needed. Brock Irwin had two RBIs in the game. Tate
was also the winning pitcher in the game, giving up six hits and striking out
Head Coach Brian Lipe said it was the junior's best outing of the season.
"I grabbed him after the game and told him it was the best start he's had
all year. He didn't have his best stuff, and good pitchers, when they don't
have their best stuff, find ways to get outs. And he found ways to get outs. He
did a tremendous job that first game."
Game Two went eight innings before Salem finally earned the 4-3 win. Nick
Conklin picked up the win in relief for Salem, pitching a no-hitter
over three scoreless innings and striking out four.
Salem trailed the second game 3-2 in the bottom of the seventh before Tate tied
the game with a homerun over the left field fence. It was Tate's first high
school homerun, and it left him speechless even after the game.
"I don't know. I don't know what to say. It was awesome."
In a situation where base runners were needed, Coach Lipe had the
"take" sign on for hitters. However, even the head coach can be
persuaded to change the play.
"Coach (Mike) Malone and I were talking before the at-bat and we gave
the 'take' sign and said 'We're going to look at a strike here, down one, we're
going to get some base runners on. And he (Malone) looked at me and goes 'I
think we ought to let Tate swing.' And boy, we did, and credit Coach Malone on
that one. Mike Malone saw the future or something."
The round-tripper forced extra innings, and while the Braves went down quietly
in the eighth, the Wildcats would not imitate.
Jon Kingery led off with a walk and moved to second on a ground out by Riley
Martin. Kingery advanced to third on a botched pick-off attempt when the
baseball ended up in centerfield. Then with two outs and the winning run ninety
feet from home, senior Alex Phillips opened up on a pitch and sent it sailing
to left field for a walk-off single.
Phillips was 0-3 before that eighth-inning at-bat and was happy to get another
chance at the plate to help his team.
"I didn't really hit very well at the beginning of the game. But I found
myself in a position to help the team out and just did what I could."
Lipe said that's the beauty about baseball - you never know when it will be
your chance to come through.
"It was Alex's turn. He delivered and he got a game ball for that big rip.
I'll tell you what - I couldn't be more happy for a kid."
Wyatt McGhee also had a pair of hits in the game.
Salem can win the Apollo Conference title outright Thursday evening when they
host Effingham for a doubleheader.
"The night before prom, we play at home. We'll probably end up under the
lights. To know that we have at least a share of the conference feels might
good. Effingham's not just going to lay back. They're going to come to play
Thursday night. And when they do, we're going to beat them. And we're going to
take the conference by the horns and we're going to have some fun doing
Game one of Thursday's doubleheader starts at 4pm.
(See full album of Greg Maxey's photos taken Saturday here.)
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