A day earlier, Andover Central clinched a state softball berth with a furious 12-run rally in the final inning.
Andover Central’s baseball team couldn’t muster a similar rally.
Augusta senior right-hander Taite Saldana made certain his team’s 2-0 lead stood up in the Class 4A-I regional final Wednesday.
“I was really proud of our kids, how they held on and didn’t panic at the end and made the plays,” Augusta coach Doug Jefferson said.
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Saldana limited Andover Central to six hits and left a Jaguar runner stranded at third in the second, fifth and sixth innings, sending the Orioles (17-5) back to state after a trip in 2015.
“It’s just confidence in yourself,” Saldana said afterward. “If you don’t have that, you’re never going to succeed, and that’s what I felt like I had.”
He also escaped a two-on, two-out threat in the seventh.
Jefferson said that’s what he expects from an experienced senior.
“He just kept battling through it,” Jefferson said. “He went with us two years ago to state, and we kind of put it on our seniors’ shoulders to get us back there.”
Saldana also drove in the Orioles’ first run in the third inning on a high chopper to third.
Andover Central starter Dane Pedersen scattered five Augusta hits, but three came in the two-run third.
Dalton Eberhardt led off the inning with a chopper to third that was bobbled for an error. Clay Wesbrooks’ single moved him to second, and junior Chance Whitehead got a single that loaded the bases.
Saldana stepped to the plate and chopped it to third, but the throw home was offline.
Senior Nolan Riley followed with an infield hit that scored Wesbrooks for the 2-0 lead.
Pedersen managed to match Saldana the rest of the way, retiring everyone after that until Riley singled in the sixth.
Andover Central (16-5), which stranded seven runners, had its chances but just couldn’t break through against Saldana.
Jaguars coach Grant Bacon had praise for his pitcher.
“Dane, he pitched a heck of a game,” Bacon said. “We didn’t make a couple of plays in that inning, and they put up two runs.
“We hit a couple of balls hard – right at people. Several times we had runners in scoring position, but nothing came of it.”
2 5 0
0 6 1
W – Saldana. L – Pedersen.