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Salem knocks off No. 1-ranked Raiders
Seminoles earn trip to quarterfinals

DALLAS - There are many words that could describe what happened at East Paulding High School on Friday.

But no words would give justice to the fact that the Seminoles' 8-7 victory over the Raiders was easily the biggest win in Salem baseball history.

The Seminoles earned elite status by becoming one of eight teams left in Class AAAA by knocking off the No. 1-ranked Raiders on their own field.

But the win was not without drama.

And plenty of it.

Trailing 7-2 in the top of the sixth inning, the Seminoles looked all but ready to pack their bags and go home.

Nothing was further from the truth.

With two outs and two runners on base, Dustin Dunlop's three-run homer revived the Seminoles and made it a two-run game.

Dunlop then came on in relief in the bottom of the sixth and pitched his way out of a bases-loaded jam.

Then, in Salem's last at-bat, T.J. Cash sent the money to the bank with a three-run bomb to give Salem its first and only lead of the night.

Drew Dentler then came on in the bottom of the seventh and got three Raiders out, prompting pandemonium in the Salem dugout.

With the win, the Seminoles advance to play Lee County in Leesburg on Tuesday. It is Salem's first trip to the Elite Eight round of the state baseball playoffs.

After the game, Salem coach Chris Davis was elated.

"I love these kids," he said. "Right now, this feels pretty dang good."

Davis said the key to victory was the fact that his team never let the deficit get to them and they never gave up.

"We didn't panic and that was the key. You play to the last pitch and you keep your composure," he said. "There were times where it seemed like we might get a little rattled, but they kept their composure and I can't say enough about these guys."

East Paulding went up 1-0 in the bottom of the first, but Salem tied it up in the top of the third when Jake Dyer's RBI single plated Dentler.

The tie didn't last long as East Paulding scored two more runs in the bottom of the third to lead 3-1.

The Raiders' biggest inning came in the fourth where they struck for four runs and built a 7-1 lead.

Salem chipped away at the lead in the fifth when Dyer's sacrifice fly plated Dentler again and made it 7-2.

But it was the six runs that came off two swings that ultimately made the difference for the Seminoles.

"Those two home runs were huge," Davis said of the three-run homers by Dunlop and Cash. "I just can't say enough about these guys."