DALLAS - Salem and East Paulding split the first two games in a best-of-three series Wednesday in the second round of the Class AAAA baseball playoffs.
Salem went up 5-0 early in Game 1 and held off a late charge by the Raiders to win the opener 5-4. But the Raiders got the best of the Seminoles in the nightcap, winning 8-2. Game 3 is set for 5:30 p.m. today at East Paulding High School.
Salem 5, East Paulding 4
Salem went up 2-0 in its first at-bat after a shaky start by Raiders pitcher Zack Wheeler. In the first inning alone, Wheeler walked a batter, hit a batter and allowed another to advance on a wild pitch. Wheeler didn't have much help from his teammates either. Drew Dentler scored the first run on an error by third baseman Geraldo Mancilla. Dentler reached on a fielder's choice and advanced to third on two passed balls. Taylor Lamb's RBI single made it 2-0 later in the inning.
Salem increased its lead to 4-0 in the top of the second off a monster two-run homer over the fence in left-center field by Dustin Dunlop.
Salem made it 5-0 in the third when Brandon Crumbley's RBI double plated Logan Singleton.
But the game was nowhere near over.
East Paulding made it a 5-2 game in the bottom of the third off an RBI double by Matt Aultman and an RBI groundout by Erick Gaylord.
Both teams went quietly through the order over the next few innings. It wasn't until East Paulding's last at-bat that the game really tightened.
The Raiders singled to start the inning and Dyer walked the next two batters to load the bases with no outs.
Dentler came on in relief, but he walked the first batter he faced to make it 5-3. Things got worse for Salem after a wild pitch plated another run and made it 5-4.
However, Dentler fanned two of the next three batters he faced to preserve the win. The other key out of the inning came on a play at the plate. With runners on second and third, Dunlop fielded a hot shot and relayed it home to Cash who applied the tag on a charging Raider base runner.
Salem 2, East Paulding 8
Playing as the away team, East Paulding took a 1-0 lead in the top of the second off an RBI single by Jacob Forrest.
The Raiders increased their lead in the third off an RBI single by Adam Brazenas, making it 2-0.
Salem got one of the runs back in the bottom of the fourth when Crumbley's RBI double plated Dentler.
East Paulding added another run in the top of the fifth off an RBI single by Zach Gonosz.
East Paulding tacked on 2 more runs in the top of the sixth to go up 5-1.
But Salem wasn't done. The Seminoles fired back in the bottom of the sixth and scored a single run off an RBI single by Lamb, plating Dentler.
So for the second straight game, the seventh inning began with the away team leading 5-2.
Unfortunately for Salem, the seventh inning of this game belonged to East Paulding.
The Raiders struck for hit after hit and built an 8-2 advantage, which was the final tally after Salem went silently in the bottom of the seventh.
Brandon Evans can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org