Cody Johnson was feeling the nerves, being put in the spotlight in a late-game situation.
Johnson took the mound in the sixth-inning with a one-run advantage, chasing six outs to keep his team in full control of the league standings.
Salem Withnell didn’t go down quietly, but Johnson got rid of the nerves and found those outs to help Mid-Valley to an 8-7 win in an American Legion Area III baseball game at Memorial Stadium.
“I just knew that we had to throw strikes and not give them any free bases and trust the defense and make the plays,” said Johnson, who gave up a walk in the sixth and a single in the seventh. “Right when I got out there (to the mound) and threw my warm-up pitches, it was good after that.”
The Southpaws improved to 20-10 overall and 8-1 in Area III with six league games to go. Salem (3-4 Area III) hosts Mid-Valley in a 1 p.m. Tuesday doubleheader at Willamette University in Salem.
The league’s top seed gets an automatic berth in the AAA state tournament, which begins July 28 in Roseburg. The second, third and fourth teams from Area III compete in the super regionals, with the winners there going to state.
Johnson was originally scheduled to start one of Wednesday’s games. But the Southpaws went with Johnson in relief of starter Jayce Lien on Tuesday because teammate Kevin Crowell’s style too closely resembled Lien’s.
“We felt like we wanted to mix that up a little, but the key was throwing strikes,” Mid-Valley coach Troy Babbitt said. “He came in and threw enough strikes to allow his pitches to work.”
Johnson’s fastball and curveball got the job done.
After the Wednesday doubleheader, the Southpaws will go to Newport on Sunday for a rescheduled game against Mid-Coast and then play a three-game series against Corvallis next week.
Salem’s loss Tuesday leaves Dallas (4-3) as the only remaining team besides Mid-Valley with fewer than four league losses.
“If we can get two tomorrow, we’ll be sitting really good,” Johnson said.
Mid-Valley got the victory despite being outhit 12-6. Taylor Holder and Cade Perrizo had two hits apiece for the Southpaws. Perrizo and Connor Spevacek had two RBIs apiece.
Mid-Valley jumped out fast Tuesday, scoring five runs while bringing 10 batters to the plate. The Southpaws took advantage of two hit batters and two walks, plus Perrizo’s two-run double off the center field wall and Cooper Hartsell’s RBI sacrifice fly.
Salem came back with four runs in the top of the second. The Dodgers opened the frame with three straight doubles to score two runs then added two more on a throwing error and a RBI single.
Taylor Holder’s RBI single to left in the bottom of the second added to the lead.
Salem tied it with two in the third on a hit batter, single, another Southpaws throwing error and a sacrifice fly.
After getting a runner into scoring position in the third, Mid-Valley went back ahead in the fourth.
Johnson’s RBI sacrifice fly — following a single and two walks with one out — provided the first run. A second bases-loaded walk in the contest to Spevacek, the fourth base on balls of the inning by Salem starter Gavin Fredinburg, made it 8-6.
Salem got one run back in the fifth on Cameron Kallhoff’s one-out RBI double.