SALEM – The Virginia state Dixie League O-Zone baseball champion is being decided at the James I. Moyer Complex this week, and as of press time Salem was still alive. The championship round was scheduled to begin Wednesday and Salem was included.
Salem was 3-1 through four days of action, including a 4-3 win over Montgomery County on Tuesday to keep the Salemites alive. It’s been an exciting week for the 11 and 12 year old Salem boys as they battle to earn a spot in the Dixie World Series in Madison Heights.
The Salem All-Stars, coached by Ernie Dodd, David Mitchell, and Rich Fox, opened state play Saturday with an 11-0 win over North Roanoke. Salem won in just four innings by slaughter rule. Riley Fox pitched the first three innings for the win.
On Sunday Salem fell behind Scottsburg early and trailed 3-1 heading into the bottom of the fifth. However, Salem rallied for six runs in the inning and went on to a 7-3 win. Trevor Austin got the victory on the mound in relief of Josh Adkins, who pitched into the fifth.
Monday’s winners’ bracket final against Rustburg was a thriller. Trevor Austin got the start and took a one-hitter into the sixth, looking for a complete game shutout. However, Rustburg rallied and had runners on second and third with two outs and two strikes on the batter.
One strike away from a win, the Rustburg batter lined a shot to shallow left. Salem leftfielder Vincent Pinello dove for the ball and came up with it in his glove, but the third base umpire ruled it had hit the ground first, denying Vincent what would have been a sensational game-saving catch. Both runners scored and the game went into extra innings, where Salem lost on a two-out walk-off home run in the bottom of the seventh.
That put the Salemites in the losers’ bracket for Tuesday’s game with Montgomery County, who had eliminated North Roanoke a night prior. This game was tied 3-3 into the bottom of the fifth when John Stover led off with a hit. Stover then stole second, went to third on an errant pickoff attempt, and scored on a wild pitch. That proved to be the winning run when Fox put the Montgomery stars down in order in the top of the sixth to pick up his second win of the tournament.
In Tuesday’s nightcap Rustburg eliminated Scottsburg and remained the only unbeaten team in the tournament. Salem and Rustburg were scheduled to play Wednesday night, and if Rustburg won that game the tournament was over. However, if Salem won Wednesday than an “if” game would be played tonight, Thursday, at 7 pm at Moyer to decide the state champion.
This week’s winner goes to the Dixie World Series at Madison Heights will begin on Aubust 6.