SALEM-The Salem baseball team came into Monday's game against Western Reserve as a winless, reeling club.
The Quakers had been one-hit by West Branch in both ends of a doubleheader last Thursday, and were blown out in another doubleheader Saturday against Sandy Valley.
"We had a team meeting and our coach (Gary Martin) told us we could either give up or get this thing rolling," Salem senior Alex Weikart said.
For one night at least, the Quakers heeded the message, exploding for eight runs in the first two innings to down the Blue Devils, 10-4, at Salem High School.
It was Salem's first win of the year, as the Quakers improve to 1-10. Western Reserve drops to 6-4.
"We were feeling pretty bad after the last few games, but tonight we turned everything around," Weikart said. "We got the monkey off our back."
Before the Quakers could bust out of their slump, things got off to an ominous start.
Salem lefthander Tyler Sims made his first start of the year and struggled out of the gate, throwing his first 10 pitches for balls. The Blue Devils scored two runs in the top of the first and had the bases loaded with only one out before the sophomore gathered himself and struck out Jon Timko and Evan Nesbitt to end the inning.
"Getting out of that inning fired us up," Salem coach Gary Martin said. "In previous games this season our morale would crumble if guys started getting on base, but today was different. Today was a day that we stuck behind our pitcher. There was a lot of positive talk to keep Tyler going."
Properly buoyed, the Quakers scored five runs in their half of the first to take the lead for good.
Weikart led off by clubbing a double to deep left-centerfield, and came around to score on an RBI single to center by Andrew Robbins, who scored on a passed ball Jordan McGuire also had a sac fly and the Quakers scored two runs on a Western Reserve throwing error.
Weikart finished with two hits, two runs scored and a walk, while Keaton Turney had a double, a single and a walk.
"Once a few guys started hitting the ball, the enthusiasm spread," Weikart said. "We definitely fed off each other in the dugout."
Salem opened up an 8-2 lead in the second on a bases load walk by Turney and a two-run double by Trace Jenkins. Western Reserve starter John Clegg-who is number four in the Blue Devil rotation-did not make it out of the inning. He finished with five walks and a hit batter.
"The key for John is to get off to a good start," Western Reserve coach Ed Anthony said. "When he struggles early he struggles a bit mentally, that's what happened tonight."
Western Reserve was led by Walker Marlowe with a single and two RBIs. The Blue Devils never got closer than five runs the rest of the game, but had multiple threats. The Blue Devils had runners on second and third with one out in the fifth, but Branson Wilms took over for Sims on the mound and came out unscathed. In the seventh, the Blue Devils loaded the bases again and Martin-not wanting to take any chances of squandering the lead-summoned Weikart, one of the team's main pitchers, to the mound to close the game out.
"I told him (Martin) that I was ready to take the mound whenever he needed me tonight," Weikart said. "I was glad to help us get out first win."
"We've been competitive at times this season, but little things cause us to fall apart," Martin said. "It's all about establishing a consistent intensity for us and tonight we did that. We need to stay with that same mindset going forward."
Salem hosts Marlington today, while Western Reserve plays Lowellville at Cene Park in Struthers.
WR: 2-0-0-1-0-0-1- 4-4-4
SA-Tyler Sims, wp, (4 1/3 IP, 6BB, 3K), Branson Wilms (2 1/3 IP, 2BB, 0K), Alex Weikart (1/3 IP, 0BB, 0K) and Andrew Robbins.
WR-John Clegg, lp, (1/23 IP, 5BB, 1K), Wyatt Larimer (3 1/3 IP, 1BB, 1K), Walker Marlowe (1 IP, 0BB, 1K) and Zach Smith.