After using their game against Jefferson Tuesday as batting practice, the Colton Vikings' path to the Class 3A round of 16 will now go through Salem Academy.
On Tuesday, Colton just barely beat out the incoming rainstorm as they enforced the ten-run rule over Jefferson in a must-win situation to continue their path to a playoff berth.
And the Viks are still in the race as they thumped the Lions 10-0 in the bottom of the fifth inning on a walk-off two-RBI single from sophomore TJ Tiano. The win is Colton's first shutout victory in more than five years; the last time the Viks' shutout an opponent was on April 17, 2012 when they beat Gervais 3-0.
The Viks will have their hands full with the Crusaders (15-3, 13-2 PWC) as they head down to Salem Thursday for their 5 p.m. game. Colton is 0-3 against Salem Academy this season, falling by a total margin of 4-28 throughout the three contests.
But that doesn't mean the Viks can't hang: in one contest, the score separation was just one run until Vest had to be pulled due to pitch count rules, and head coach Bryan Woodward said the outcome may have been different if Vest didn't have to be pulled.
And that's not to say Vest is Colton's only hope. Their defense has been playing exceptionally well recently and their offensive effort has thrived enough to allow them to win six out of their last seven games.
Colton began their route in the bottom of the second inning Tuesday when senior Aaron Wimsatt started the inning off with a grounder through the third base gap on the first pitch for a single.
Sophomore Joseph Reed took the plate next and was hit on the first pitch, putting runners on first and second in two pitches.
Vest took the plate next and sent a grounder to short as Reed beat the throw to second for the attempted double play.
Colton was in danger of leaving three runners on as sophomore Reed Schrosk struck out followed by a caught foul ball in sophomore Miles Payne's at-bat.
But mental mistakes from the Lions caused the first run to score on a passed ball during Rasor's at-bat, putting the Viks on the board. Then on a full count, Rasor sent a grounder to third and beat the throw for an RBI single. Tiano took the plate next as runners stood on first and third. He sent a floater into center field that dropped short, and two runs scored while Tiano advanced to second as the Lions attempted to get Rasor at the plate, but were too slow. The Viks would end the four-run inning on a strikeout from junior Dawson Hall.
In the top of the third, Colton put away three batters in a row on a textbook defensive showcase save for one unusual physical instance that saw senior Ronny Woodward sprint towards first base after picking up a grounder to try and get the out, only to collide directly with the batter, forcing the umpire to call him safe.
It was no matter, however, as Payne caught a pop fly in left field next for the first out. Then the next batter sent a heater to Rasor at second, who flipped the ball to Hall to get the force out as he fired a rocket to Woodward at first to turn the double play and end the inning.
Then in the bottom of the third, Wimsatt again connected for a single, followed by a walk from Reed as runners stood on first and second.
Wimsatt stole third and was then able to get up and trot home as the throw from the catcher sailed over the bag. Colton took a 5-0 lead as Schrosk stuck out to end the inning.
Colton couldn't do much in the bottom of the fourth as they grounded out three in a row, but relief pitcher Hall took over and struck out three in a row in the top of the fifth as the rain began to come down. The Viks had hopes to end the game here with the ten-run rule.
Woodward was walked to put the first Vik on base after Hall struck out. Wimsatt then sent a slow dribbler up the middle as the Lions didn't appear to know what to do, allowing Woodward to slide safe into second and Wimsatt to cruise safe at first; Wimsatt was three for three with three singles on the day.
Reed took the plate next with a chance to put the bat on ball after a walk and being hit by pitch in his previous at-bats. He took advantage and sent a towering two-RBI double to deep center field that was just a few feet away from going over the fence. Colton now lead 7-0.
Vest took the plate next and was given a walk, followed by Schrosk being hit by pitch to load the bases.
Payne took the plate next and was also hit by pitch as a run was driven in, putting Colton up 8-0 with the bases loaded.
Tiano took the plate and had a chance to win the game outright; he sent a line drive through the second base gap for a two-RBI single to end the game as Colton hit ten runs.
"We're feeling pretty good about how far we're making it," Vest said. "The main thing our team needs to do is to keep a good attitude and stay focused; I know we're a good team as long as we can keep those two things going."
Vest was pulled in the fourth inning against Jefferson Tuesday to save his pitch count for Thursday's game at Salem Academy. Vest will be ready to go for that game.
"I know our team has the ability to beat every team in the league as we have shown with beating Blanchet," he said. "It's all just a matter of keeping our attitudes in check."
Sports Reporter/News Contributor
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