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Friday, December 4, 2020

Tigers inch closer to unbeaten league season with 9-0 road win

PHOTOS BY ERIC DEMELLO

Bleiz Kimbrough
Bleiz Kimbrough

Conference champion Taft High used a 12-strikeout, two-hit shutout from junior left-hander Bleiz Kimbrough to move within a victory of completing a perfect West Valley League baseball season Tuesday by downing Willamina, 9-0.

The road win improved the No. 1-ranked Tigers to 11-0 in league play and 20-2 overall with the conference finale scheduled for 4:30 p.m. Wednesday at Dayton (9-11, 6-4).

Uncharacteristically, the Tigers fell short of playing in their ninth league game shortened by the state’s 10-run mercy rule. That’s the kind of season it’s been for Taft.

Tuesday’s shutout of the Bulldogs (4-16, 2-9) pushed the Tigers’ scoring margin over league opponents to 142-4 this season, or nearly 14 runs per game. The Tigers, who have won 14 straight games, have outscored the opposition 242-59 in 22 contests.

“We came out flat this afternoon. Defensively, we made a couple of mistakes,” Coach Matt Hilgers said. “Our pitching kept us where we needed to be to get the win.”

Kam Kessler
Kam Kessler

Junior third baseman Kam Kessler, who doubled and tripled, had three hits, four RBIs and scored three runs for Taft, which scored six times in the first inning. The Tigers added two runs in the third and one in the seventh.

Josh Salsbery
Josh Salsbery

Senior shortstop Josh Salsbery also had three hits, scored a run and joined senior first baseman Jack Stempel with two RBIs.

Jack Stempel
Jack Stempel

Senior center fielder Caleb King had two hits and scored a run, while junior second baseman Cody Knott scored twice. Stempel and sophomore catcher Eli DeMello also scored for Taft.

Eli DeMello
Eli DeMello

Kimbrough, who also scored a run, walked none while going the distance.

Bleiz Kimbrough
Bleiz Kimbrough

Willamina leadoff hitter Kaleb Ried had both of the Bulldogs’ hits off Kimbrough. Starter Tanner Onstot surrendered 10 hits to the Tigers in defeat.

“We didn’t have very good approaches at the plate today, and their guy did a good job of keeping us off balance,” Hilgers said. “The good thing about baseball is you get to reset and start over with the next game. For us, that happens tomorrow. We are looking to be better tomorrow in our final league game.”

After Dayton, Taft will play at fourth-ranked Salem Academy (10-1, 6-0 3A PacWest) in the regular-season finale Tuesday, May 15, at Volcanoes Stadium in Keizer, site of the June 1 State title game. The Tigers will host a league playoff game at 5 p.m. Thursday, May 17, against a team to be determined.

The Tigers’ only losses this season came back to back in late March when they lost 8-5 at second-ranked La Pine (17-2, 10-1 3A Mountain Valley) and 18-9 to Crook County (13-9, 8-5 4A Tri-Valley) in the Madras Tournament during spring break.

Taft Tigers Video Game

Taft 9, Willamina 0

TAFT                    AB  R  H BI 
Josh Salsbery         5  1  3  2
Eli DeMello             4  1  0  0
Caleb King             4  1  2  0
Jack Stempel         4  1  0  2
Cody Knott            4  2  1  0
Kam Kessler           4  3  3  4
Tyee Fisher            4  0  1  0
Bleiz Kimbrough     1  0  0  1
Trenton Fisher        4  0  0  0
David Elwood         2  0  0  0
TOTALS               34  9 10  9

WILLAMINA          AB  R  H BI
Kaleb Ried               3  0  2  0
Nick Colton              3  0  0  0
Tanner Onstot          2  0  0  0
Keegan Cook           2  0  0  0
Josh Royce              1  0  0  0
Ian Bruckner           3  0  0  0
Austin Wadkins        3  0  0  0
Brad Milton             2  0  0  0
CJ Toney                2  0  0  0
TOTALS               23  0  2  0

TAFT                     602 000 1 — 9
WILLAMINA         000 000 0 — 0

LOB–TAFT 8, WILLAMINA 3. ERR–Tyee Fisher, Eli DeMello, CJ Toney, Brad Milton, Kaleb Ried (2). 2B—Josh Salsbery, Kam Kessler. 3B–Kam Kessler. HBP–Bleiz Kimbrough (3), Tanner Onstot. SB–Josh Salsbery, Cody Knott.

TAFT                            IP    H    R   ER   BB   SO   HR
Bleiz Kimbrough (W)            7.00    2    0    0    0   12    0
WILLAMINA
Tanner Onstot (L)              7.00   10    9    6    1    4    0
BB—Eli DeMello.

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

Jim Fossum
Jim Fossumhttp://SilverandBlackToday.com
Homepage Executive Editor and former longtime Sports Editor of the near-200,000 circulation Las Vegas Review-Journal, Fossum brings 40 years of award-winning experience covering virtually every facet of print and digital journalism to Lincoln City Homepage. The former longtime reporter for the Newport News-Times and Lincoln City News Guard is also Editor-in-Chief and Senior Columnist for SilverandBlackToday.com, which covers the NFL's Oakland (Las Vegas) Raiders.

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