Clinton hosted a first round playoff game on Wednesday night, welcoming the Stallions of South Columbus to the Dark Horse Baseball Complex. On a night when neither team could figure out the other pitcher in the early going the Stallions eventually took advantage of several Clinton miscues to scratch out some offense and escape with a 5-0 road win, advancing to the second round.
Clinton Junior, Jonathan Wright took the mound for the Horses and baffled the Stallion batters for the first three innings. In the top of the fourth the Stallions resorted to small ball, getting their lead off hitter on with a hit, a sacrifice and walk put runners at second and third. The next batter hit a ball to center field that was misplayed allowing 2 runs to score, giving South Columbus all the offense they would need to hold off the Dark Horses. Jonathan Wright got aboard with a double in the bottom of the fourth but was stranded at second as the Dark Horses were unable to advance him.
In the top of the fifth the Stallions were back up to their old tricks, getting the lead off man aboard on a walk and loading the bases when the next two batters bunted their way aboard, one on an error and the other on a well placed bunt. The Stallions scored their next two runs on wild pitches to surge ahead 4-0 but were not quite done in the inning. With runners on the corners the Stallions attempted to steal second. The runner was caught stealing by a nice Wade Sumner throw, but the runner on third was able to slide home just under the throw back to the plate giving South Columbus their fifth run of the game.
South Columbus pitcher, Hunter Shelley, continued to be dominant on the mound limiting the Horses to few opportunities on the base paths the rest of the way. Wade Sumner slammed a one out double to right in the bottom of the seventh but the late inning rally was not in the cards for Clinton on this night as Shelley efficiently retired the final two batters to end the game and Clinton’s season.
After the game, Clinton head coach Tracey Thornton, said “we had a great season, our bats just went cold the last two ballgames. South Columbus is a good team, they put the ball in play and we just didn’t make enough plays to keep them from scoring.”
South Columbus coach Bradley Strickland complimented his team’s play saying, “this is the best we have played all year. Tonight is the first time all season we came out and played error free baseball. I have tried to tell our boys all year that if we come out and handle the ball good things will happen. We are not going to beat the ball all over the park but if we don’t give the other team more than 21 outs, we have a chance against anyone.”
South Columbus advances to the second round of the 2A NCHSAA Playoffs where they will face the winner of the North Lenoir vs Bertie game on Friday night. The Dark Horses wrap up a successful campaign, finishing the year with a 14-5 overall record and 11-3 in the Four County Conference.