Sprague Baseball Defeats North Salem 3-1

 

Sprague's Justin Culpepper (10) tags North Salem's Ethan Yarnell (8) out at second base in the North Salem vs. Sprague baseball game at Sprague High School in Salem on Wednesday, April 15, 2015. Sprague won the age 3-1.

Long touted by his former youth sports coaches – including the late Mark Stapleton, who was remembered before Wednesday's game – Sprague High School's sophomore second baseman is turning into the player he was supposed to be.

In Wednesday's 3-1 win against North Salem in a Greater Valley Conference game, Culpepper played the role of offensive star, going 2-for-3 with two doubles, an RBI and a run.

"You know, he's grown so much since last year, and he's really developed into a guy we can always count on," senior Josh King said. "And he's been our most productive hitter this year.

"He really helps us all get better as hitters, too. Watching him, watching his success, his mental approach at the plate, it's really cool to see. He's a great kid. Great teammate."

The same guy who took over as the football team's starting quarterback halfway through the season is earning the attention.

With two outs and a runner on second in the third inning against North Salem, he hit a long double down the rightfield line to score Michael Murphy from second, then scored on the next play when Andrew Ishii reached base on an error.

After King hit an RBI single, Sprague led North Salem 3-0.

And it all started with Culpepper's clutch swing.

"He puts the ball in play, and he's very solid at second base for us," Sprague coach Luke Buchheit said. "Despite his youth he plays very mature. I think that's what sets him apart of from other athletes."

Offense is an area that Sprague (5-8 overall, 2-2) struggled with in recent years.

The team produced 40 runs this season, second lowest in the conference.

If the team is to get back on the path it started the season – with wins against Central Catholic and Lake Oswego – it needs all the offensive heroics it can get.

"There's nothing wrong with him mentally," senior pitcher Ben Tinnell said. "He's always with it and he's always got a good way of looking at things, and he never hangs his head and he always finds a way to get better."

A North Salem (4-7, 0-3) team with dangerous hitters finally got to Tinnell in the fifth inning as Andy Bevens hit a two-out RBI single to score Cole Hamilton from third.

But Tinnell struck out six and allowed four hits through six innings for the win

"With Ben, he's on, and if he's on in the first inning he's on through the whole game," Culpepper said.

 

Original Article by Bill Poehler, Statesman Journal (4-15-15)

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