by: JIM BESEDA - Keaton Franco on the mound Tuesday.Molalla’s Keaton Franco finished what he started Tuesday afternoon at Al Geddes Field.

The junior right-hander fired a one-hitter with four strikeouts and faced only three batters over the minimum to pace the Indians to a 5-0 Tri-Valley League victory over the Estacada Rangers.

Austin Alexander went 2 for 3 with an RBI and scored once, but the spotlight belonged to Franco, who retired the Rangers in order in the seventh to help the Indians (4-7, 1-2 Tri-Valley League) snapped a three-game skid.

“Keaton was on today, that’s for sure,” senior catcher Devon Schaefer said. “He had a good day. He came out and threw a lot of strikes. They were behind him, so we kept with the fastball and it worked well.”

Franco got all the run support he needed in the first when Schaefer singled to left with one out, went to second on Reed Aylett’s sacrifice, and scored on Luke Ellis’ two-out single up the middle.

Molalla added another run in the third, two more in the fourth, and an unearned run in the fifth — all against Estacada senior left-hander Casey Jones.

The Rangers (5-8, 1-2) threatened in the fourth when designated hitter Bryce Babikoff singled and third baseman Brandon Beck got hit by a pitched leading off the inning. Then with two outs and the runners at first and third, Molalla spoiled a double steal attempt as Franco threw to shortstop Kurt Potter, who then threw to Schaefer, cutting down Babikoff at the plate.

Ellis, the junior third baseman, provided another defensive gem in the fifth when he snagged a line drive off Jordan McDaniel’s bat, robbing the Estacada shortstop of extra bases.

“When our pitchers throw strikes, we’re tough to beat, because defensively we’re pretty solid,” Molalla coach Todd Potter said. “Offensively, we got back to doing the little things — getting bunts down, moving guys over, and scoring runs. That was much more characteristic of our team.”

Molalla returns to action Thursday against the Rangers in a 5 p.m. game at Estacada.

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