Outburst boosts Vikings

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HEGINS - There's not much that separates Williams Valley and Tri-Valley on the baseball field.

Monday, it was one big inning.

The Vikings used a four-run second inning as a springboard to a 5-3 victory over the Dawgs in a Schuylkill League Division II clash on April 29.

Williams Valley (12-3, 9-3 D-II) combined three singles, a walk, a sacrifice bunt and two Tri-Valley errors to take a 4-0 lead, then got strong relief pitching by Travis Crider to fend off the Dawgs.

The victory moved the Vikings one game ahead of Tri-Valley (9-5, 8-4) in the race for the second playoff berth in Division II.

"We got some key hits when we needed them there to move runners around. They made some errors, too," Williams Valley coach Don Matter said. "Travis Crider coming in there was a big thing."

The contest was the only Schuylkill League baseball game held in Monday's wet, rainy conditions as the other six were postponed. Despite the conditions, Tri-Valley's field was in excellent shape and held up throughout the game, which was played in an intermittent drizzle.

Williams Valley won the game despite starting pitcher Brendan Miller and Crider combining to issue 10 walks and hit two batters. Miller walked seven in four innings, and Crider walked three.

Tri-Valley had only one hit - a lead-off single by Dalton Miller in the fourth - but couldn't capitalize on Williams Valley's wildness. The Dawgs had their leadoff batter reach safely in each of the first five innings but hit into two double plays, struck out 10 times and left 10 runners on base.

"Their pitchers did a great job when they threw strikes," Tri-Valley coach Bob Felty Sr. said. "They gave us plenty of opportunities, but we just didn't put the ball in play enough.

"We needed a key hit in the right situation, which we didn't get. You have to put the ball in play. When you strike out, there's not a whole lot of good that can happen. At least if you put it in play, something can happen."

Crider struck out seven batters over the final three frames, getting back-to-back Ks with the bases loaded in the fifth and the Vikings up 5-3. The senior left-hander retired eight of the final nine batters he faced, six of those by strikeout.

"He's the type of kid we need to come in and throw behind Brendan and Owen (Daniel) in relief purposes," Matter said. "He proved today he's good enough to come and throw with those two guys."

Codie Miller went 3-for-4 for Williams Valley, starting the Vikings' second-inning outburst with a one-out single. Trevor Whelski followed with a walk.

Jarred Matter then executed a perfectly-placed bunt toward first base. Tri-Valley pitcher Dalton Miller fielded the bunt cleanly but threw wide to first, allowing Codie Miller to score.

"That wasn't supposed to be a bunt," Don Matter said. "I wanted to fake bunt and move the runners up, and he put a perfect bunt down. That wasn't supposed to be, but it worked out in our favor."

Crider followed with an RBI single to right to make it 2-0. After a strikeout, two more runs scored on a throwing error by the Tri-Valley third baseman.

Tri-Valley sliced the deficit to 4-1 on Devin Masser's sacrifice fly in the third inning. After Williams Valley made it 5-1 on Jarred Matter's RBI single in the top of the fifth, the Dawgs rallied in the bottom half.

Two hit batsmen and two walks plated one run, and another scored on an error. Crider buckled down, however, fanning the next two hitters to end the threat.

The victory was huge for Williams Valley, which was scheduled to host division-leading Minersville (11-3, 10-0) on Wednesday and travel to Marian (6-6, 5-6) on Thursday. (Details of those games were unavailable prior to press production.) The Vikings lost 5-4 to the Miners and 6-5 to the Colts.

"Those are the three teams we lost to," Don Matter said. "It's a big week. Hopefully we can make up that difference."

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