The Salem baseball team has its sights set on earning one of the four playoff spots in Region 8-AAAA. Monday against rival Rockdale, Garrett Needham showed why he could be a big part of that quest, pitching six innings of three-hit ball and striking out six in Salem's 10-1 win.
Salem improved to 4-5 in region play, while Rockdale suffered its second consecutive lopsided defeat following a three-game winning streak and fell to 3-8 against region foes.
Blessed with an early, 3-0 lead, Needham kept the host Bulldogs off-balance all evening. The big right-hander allowed a run in the first when Yancy Freeney raced home on a wild pitch, but that was all Rockdale would get. Needham worked around a fielding error in the second, and after John Martin led off the fourth with a double, Needham needed just eight pitches to retire the next three hitters. He got a line drive, double play to end the fifth, and was over-powering in striking out the side in the sixth.
"I thought he was pretty dominating. I thought he pitched probably the best game he's thrown in a while," Salem coach Chad Kitchens said. "We needed it."
The Seminoles got all the runs they would need in the opening inning. Facing right-hander and Young Harris College commitment Aaron Barfield, Reed Hill singled, Eric Bechet was hit by a pitch and Jake Rich followed with a two-run double. Chase Duncan hit a high chopper that bounced into the outfield for a single that chased home pinch-runner Adam Hood to make it 3-0.
After Barfield got a quick, 1-2-3 second inning, Salem scored one run in each of the next four innings against Barfield and J.D. Kirkman, as Bechet drove in two more runs and Cole Gibson and Jordan Scott added an RBI each to make it 7-1.
"That was the first time all season that we were able to continue to put pressure on and score, basically every inning," Kitchens said. "Even though it was one run it kept adding to the lead, which was great."
The teams meet again Wednesday at Salem. First pitch is scheduled for 5:30 p.m.