Sean O’Keefe drilled a double off the wall in centerfield to drive home Kellen Huang and give Saline a 3-2 extra-inning victory over Dexter Wednesday.
Saline improved to 2-0.
“It was a well=played ball game by both teams. Pitchers controlled the game for the most part, which they sometimes do early on (in the season),” Coach Scott Theisen said.
With one-out in the bottom of the eighth, Huang singled to center. Zach Schwartzenberger followed with a single to rightfield. That brought up O’Keefe, the senior slugger who already homered in the fourth inning and who’d hit a long fly ball to center in the sixth inning.
“It was a 2-0 pitch. I figured I was going to get a fastball. I just tried to stay inside it and not to do much,” O’Keefe said. His line drive nearly cleared the fence.
When Huang scored, Schwartzenberger threw off his helmet and ran to O’Keefe and they leaped into the air in celebration of the home-opening win.
“It feels pretty good. It’s good to be in a tight game and to get the guys going. It’s good to have that toughness earlier in the season,” O’Keefe said.
Huang pitched two innings of scoreless relief for the win, giving up one hit.
Starter Cole Daniels, the left-handed junior, was dominant in five innings work. He gave up no runs on one hit. He walked none and struck out 11.
“He was outstanding,” coach Scott Theisen said. “He threw a lot of first pitch strikes. His over all strike percentage was high. As the game went on he started using his curve ball more effectively. He’s just going to get stronger as the season goes on.”
Saline took the lead in the fourth inning when O’Keefe led off with a home run over the leftfield fence.
Saline added to its lead in the fifth. With two out, Ryan Foley battled back from an 0-2 count and walked. He stole second and then took third on a wild pitch. He scored when the Dexter shortstop booted Huang’s groundball.
Tyler Zmich relieved Daniels in the sixth. He retired the side 1-2-3. But Zmich got in trouble in the top of the seventh. He walked the lead off man. Tyler Valentine stepped up and hit a wind-aided homerun over the leftfield fence, tying the score at 2.
Huang relieved Zmich. The first batter he faced reached on an error. Saline looked like it was in trouble when Flattery stole second and took third when the throw went into centerfield. But the umpire ruled the hitter interfered with O’Keefe as he threw to second. Instead of having a runner on third with no outs, Dexter had a runner on first with one out. The next batter flew out. The inning ended with an unobstructed O’Keefe gunning down a runner attempting to steal second.
Saline went down 1-2-3 in the bottom of the seventh, so the game went to extra innings.
Dexter opened the eighth inning with a single by Spicer. He took second on a bunt by Bielas. Dexter had a man in scoring position with one out. But O’Keefe caught the pinch-runner leaning too far off second base and threw him out.
“I’ve been playing with Jake Finkbeiner since we were eight years old. He gave me the little signal to pick back. I figured he had a big lead so a fired it back. Everything went the right way,” O’Keefe said. “Props to Kellen for throwing strikes and getting us out of the inning.”
Huang got the next hitter to fly out to centerfield.
“Credit our guys for scratching back, throwing a kid out at second, picking a kid off a second and then finding a way to get a run with three hits in a row in that inning,” Theisen.
Saline hosts a double header against Farmington Thursday.
The Saline Post 3 Stars
- Sean O’Keefe: He homered, doubled in the game-winning run in extra innings and threw out runners when it mattered the most.
- Cole Daniels: The junior lefty threw a gem, giving up one hit and no walks while striking out 11.
- Kellen Huang: Earned the win with two innings of scoreless relief. Also scored the game-winning run and started an inning-ending double-play at second base.