“We’ve been chasing that a little bit,” Reed coach Ray Charles said of the .500 mark. “We kind of went in the hole a little bit, so just to get another win and get to .500 is nice. That just means we’re playing okay and we’re trying to get better. I’m proud of them though. A lot of times when you’re under .500, you’re chasing it a little bit. You put a little extra pressure on yourself and you might lose a couple games you shouldn’t. It’s just nice to get another win to give us another opportunity to maybe move up and kind of guarantee ourselves a spot in the playoffs.”
Reaching .500 did not come easily for the Blue and Gold. Early on, North Valleys took the first lead of the game.
After an initial strikeout started off the top of the second inning, the Panthers found their bats. North Valleys junior Gabe Barthold initiated things with a double, which was followed by a pair of walks to load the sacks. A strikeout put the Raiders an out away from getting out of the bases-full jam, but sophomore Trenton Stowe came through for the visitors with a single into right field that out the Panthers ahead 2-0.
The Raiders made up for the pair of runs with their own two-run inning in the bottom of the third frame. Reed senior AJ Silva reached base on a walk with two outs. Senior Chuck Stroberg then sent Silva around the base paths with a shot that carried to deep center field and off the glove of the Panthers outfielder. With Stroberg standing on second, sophomore Joey Dice ripped a single back up the middle to plate his teammate and tie the game at 2-2.
The home team produced again with two outs, this time in the bottom of the fourth. After the first two batters were retired, Reed senior Connor Cox took a free pass to first base. A single from senior Chad Gray moved Cox into scoring position, setting up senior Ryan Butler for an RBI single and the go-ahead run.
North Valleys tied the game at 3-3 the next half inning on a fielder’s choice, but the Raiders refused to let the game remain equal for long.
A five-run rally in the bottom of the fifth blew the game open for Reed. A single off the bat of Dice drove in Silva before senior Spencer Jones doubled home Dice. Junior Tyler Starley got in on the action next, trading places with Jones with a double of his own. Cox then singled to put runners on the corners prior to a double steal and an error scored Starley and left Cox 90 feet from home. A wild pitch gave Cox the plate, leaving the scoreboard reading 8-3 in favor of the Raiders.
Back-to-back solo homers from North Valleys’ senior Paul VanEmmerik and Barthold cut the deficit to 8-5, but Silva got the pair back in the bottom of the sixth with a 2-run shot to straightaway center to bring the score to 10-5. Barthold got a hold of one more pitch before the game was over with a 2-run homer of his own, resulting in the 10-7 final.
“Some kids who weren’t hot early are starting to step up,” Charles said. “When you can go 1-9 and start producing runs, we’re going to be pretty tough. Our pitchers just threw strikes. I’m just kind of happy to get over that mountain a little bit, being at .500.”
Now Reed (13-10, 8-8 Northern 4A) will square off against cross-town rival Spanish Springs. The game, set for Friday at 4 p.m., will hold an extra amount of excitement aside from the rivalry with the prep squads taking the field at Aces Ballpark.
“Our next game is kind of a difficult game because everyone is all pumped up to play at the Aces’ stadium,” Charles said. “There’s a lot more of a different atmosphere initially. I’m just going to let them enjoy it. You don’t get to play on that thing very often. It’s the best field in town. Once they get out there, the grass is the grass. We’re going to enjoy the opportunity to play on that field and hopefully we play good on it.
“Hopefully we can maintain swinging good bats and throwing strikes. If we maintain those things, hopefully we can keep getting W’s and just try to qualify as high as we can once we actually are qualified for the playoffs. Our goal is to maintain our momentum. Hopefully we can.”