No. 1 Tigers close out regular season with 16th straight win

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Caleb King
Caleb King is safe at home

Three Taft High pitchers split time on the hill, and senior centerfielder Caleb King dove home two runs with three hits Tuesday to lead the Tigers to a 6-1 victory over Salem Academy that closed out the regular season.

Jack Stempel
Jack Stempel
Bleiz Kimbrough
Bleiz Kimbrough
Josh Salsbery pitching
Josh Salsbery

No, 1–ranked Taft, which will open the postseason Thursday at home with a league playoff game against fourth-rated Santiam Christian, improved to 22-2 overall with its 16th straight win.

“Going 22-2 is nice, but we’re looking to play for a couple more weeks,” Taft coach Matt Hilgers said.

Senior starter Jack Stempel, junior lefthander Bleiz Kimbrough and senior Josh Salsbery combined to strike out seven without a walk and limited the Crusaders to just one hit, a double by leadoff hitter Jacob Haller.

Caleb Jones
Caleb Jones

Taft scored a run in the first inning and two in the fourth for a 3-0 lead before Salem Academy (11-3, 7-1 3A PacWest) answered with a run in the bottom of the fourth, The Tigers scored again in the fifth and twice in the sixth to finalize the scoring.

Trenton Fisher
Trenton Fisher

Salsbery and sophomore Trenton Fisher had two hits each for the Tigers, while Salsbery, Kimbrough and junior third baseman Kam Kessler, who tripled, drove home a run apiece.

Josh Salsbery

“When you’re the No. 1 team in the state, every game is a big game,” Hilgers said. “You lose one and you drop. We have done a good job of focusing on the game at hand.”

Taft, which ran through its West Valley League schedule undefeated at 12-0, will host second-place Santiam Christian (17-8, 9-3) at 5 p.m. Thursday at the Pit. The Tigers defeated the Eagles 10-0 at home on April 10 and 5-1 May 4 in Corvallis.

“We are going after Santiam Christian just like we have every other game,” Hilgers said. “We are looking forward to having our first home game in almost three weeks. Obviously, momentum is huge, but with baseball, momentum can change with one pitch.”

Tyee Fisher
Tyee Fisher

The Tigers have dominated leagues foes this season with a scoring margin of 156-8, or more than 13 runs per game. Taft has outscored the opposition 262-64 in 24 contests.

Eli DeMello
Eli DeMello

“We are going to get better tomorrow, and we’ll be ready to go Thursday,” Hilgers said. “We still have baseball left to play and we are wanting to compete every day.”

Kam Kessler
Kam Kessler

Taft’s  only losses this season came back-to-back in late March when it lost 8-5 at La Pine (3A Mountain Valley) and 18-9 to Crook County (4A Tri-Valley) in the Madras Tournament during spring break.

“Honestly, I haven’t taken the time to look back at our season, mainly because we continue to focus on the next game,” Hilgers said.

Taft 6, Salem Academy 1

PHOTOS BY ERIC DEMELLO

TAFT                 AB  R  H BI 

Josh Salsbery         3  1  2  1

Eli DeMello           4  1  0  0

Caleb King            4  1  3  2

Jack Stempel          4  0  0  0

Cody Knott            3  1  1  0

Kam Kessler           4  1  1  1

Tyee Fisher           4  0  1  0

Bleiz Kimbrough       3  0  0  1

Trenton Fisher        3  1  2  0

TOTALS               32  6 10  5 

SALEM ACADEMY        AB  R  H BI

Jacob Haller            3  0  1  0

Luke Miller              3  1  0  0

Brandon Reed          2  0  0  1

Gabe Cuanas           2  0  0  0

Michael Pass           3  0  0  0

Jared Larkin           3  0  0  0

Baylor York            3  0  0  0

Connor Benson         2  0  0  0

Emma Gould            2  0  0  0

TOTALS                23  1  1  1

TAFT                          100 212 0 — 6

SALEM ACADEMY        000 100 0 — 1

LOB–TAFT 7, SALEM ACADEMY 3. ERR—Josh Salsbery, Kam Kessler, Gabe Cuanas, Luke Miller. 2B—Trenton Fisher, Josh Salsbery, Caleb King, Jacob Haller. 3B—Kam Kessler. HBP–Cody Knott, Gabe Cuanas. SACF–Brandon Reed. SB–Josh Salsbery, Caleb King (2), Luke Miller.

TAFT                            IP    H    R   ER   BB   SO   HR

Jack Stempel (W)               3.00    0    0    0    0    2    0

Bleiz Kimbrough                3.00    1    1    0    0    3    0

Josh Salsbery                  1.00    0    0    0    0    2    0

SALEM ACADEMY

Gabe Cuanas (L)                3.00    4    1    1    0    2    0

Luke Miller                    1.00    3    2    2    1    1    0

Brandon Reed                   3.00    3    3    1    0    4    0

PB–Jacob Haller. BB–Josh Salsbery.

Taft roster/schedule
Class 3A West Valley League standings
Class 3A OSAA rankings

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