It took extra innings to decide the outcome at Clinton on Friday night as the Dark Horses rallied to take another close win over the Spartans. Clinton sent Alex Purcell to the hill to square off against Union, and starting pitcher Tyler Matthis. Neither of the starters disappointed. Both pitchers went the distance for their respective teams, with Purcell giving up 8 hits, striking out 7 and walking 2 in his winning effort. Matthis pitched an equally good game for the Spartans yielding only 5 hits, striking out 9 and walking 4.
Union got out of the gates fast, posting two runs in top of the first when Timothy Smith walked and advanced to second on an infield error that put Cory Smith on first base. Bryson Worley drove in the first run with a single into centerfield, and Cory Smith was chased home on a single by Ryan Hall into left field. Clinton plated their first run in the bottom of the second when Grant Naylor reached on a dropped third strike and found his way home after three Union errors.
Union took a two run lead in the top of the fifth when Dustin Alphin reached on an error, stole second and scored on a hit to center field by Cory Smith to put the Spartans up 3-1. Clinton would strike back in the bottom of the inning when they put runners on second and third with no outs. Both runners scored on the ensuing play when Jonathan Wright hit into a double play but both base runners were able to score on the play to knot the score at three a side.
The pitchers duel continued through the seventh inning as neither team could mount an offensive threat. In the top of the eighth, Union was retired in order, but not without some noise. Justin Kornegay slammed a line drive down the leftfield line that appeared to give the Spartans a two out base runner, but Clinton’s Tyler McNeil was able to make a diving catch, holding onto the ball, and sending the Dark Horses to the plate with a surge of momentum. Clinton didn’t waste any time when lead-off batter Wyman Faison hit a single up the middle and took second on a passed ball. Jonathan Wright lifted a bloop single down the right field line, moving Faison to third with no outs. Union then intentionally walked Wade Sumner to load the bases. Chandler Whitfield foul tipped a 2-2 pitch into the catchers mitt for the first out of the inning, bringing Jacob Taylor to the plate. Taylor pounded a chopper to the third baseman who threw wide to the plate, pulling the catcher to the first base side of the plate and allowing Faison to dash home and score the winning run.
The Dark Horses continued their trend of winning close games. Coach Tracy Thornton of Clinton noted after the game, “this is the eighth or ninth game this year we have won by one or two runs.” Thornton continued by saying, “we did a good job just putting the ball in play tonight, their pitcher was good and Alex pitched well. This was a big win for us.” Clinton will need to string together a couple of wins next week to end the season get a shot at the playoffs. The Horses improve to 13-5 overall and 7-5 in conference play with a big game coming up on Tuesday night at West Bladen.