Salem Splits Regular Season FinaleThe Salem Wildcats earned a split in their final regular season games, a double header at Herrin on Saturday.
Salem dropped the first game 2-1 when three straight throwing errors allowed a Tiger run to cross home plate in the bottom of the sixth inning. The run spoiled a solid outing by Aaron Ruckman, who pitched five-and-two-thirds innings, giving up both runs on six hits while striking out three. Ruckman induced ten ground ball outs. Salem had six hits in the game, including a pair of singles by Brock Irwin and a triple by Sam Beavin. Nick Conklin scored the lone run and tied the game when Beavin was issued a bases-loaded walk in the sixth inning.
The Wildcats gave starting pitcher TJ Alberson a five-run cushion by the fifth inning and Salem held on for a 6-4 win in game two. The Cats jumped on the board in the third inning when Zach Tate blistered a lead-off triple to the left center wall. Irwin followed with a run-scoring sacrifice fly. Salem added four runs in the fourth as Beavin and Tate walked and scored and Evan Maxey and Irwin singled and scored. Irwin's single drove in two runs. Conklin followed with an RBI single that brought home Irwin. Beavin had a pair of doubles and an RBI in the game and Conklin went 3-4 with a double. Alberson pitched five-and-a-third innings and earned the win, allowing four runs on four hits and striking out four. Alex Phillips pitched in relief in the sixth and closed the door on Herrin in the seventh.
Overall, Salem Head Coach Brian Lipe was very pleased with his pitchers.
"Aaron Ruckman did exactly what he's been doing this year. He kept us right in the ballgame. TJ Alberson in the second game...best game he's thrown all year. He was outstanding. [He threw] a lot of strikes tonight and did a good job. When he throws strikes, he just has to trust his stuff and he'll be in good shape. Alex did a pretty good job coming in with a bases loaded jam, only giving up three runs. And he came in in the seventh and '1-2-3, let's go.'"
While hitting has been inconsistent at times, Lipe said there was more than one Wildcat who stepped up with regionals on the horizon.
"We had some guys that really hit the ball well. I thought Sam Beavin looked great at the plate today. We got Brock back a little bit. He swung the bat really well. Tater in the second game started hitting well and Nick was Nick. Hopefully our bats are coming around a little bit. We'll get ready for the regional. We'll be all right."
Salem is the top seed in the Olney Regional and plays Wednesday. The Cats will face the winner of the Olney/Effingham game that takes place Monday afternoon.
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