Clinton opened the Four County Conference baseball season in a sloppy, back and forth game against the Pender Patriots. It seemed as soon as one team would wrestle away the lead, they would boot the ball around and giveaway the ground they had just gained. Fittingly the game was decided by a routine fly ball that bounded off the heel of the Pender left-fielders’ glove to allow the Dark Horses to plate the winning run and secure the 11-10 victory in the final inning.
Pender jumped out to an early lead getting three runs in the top of the first. The Dark Horses settled down, shutting down the Pender offense in the next three innings while the Clinton bats scratched out two runs to whittle the Patriot lead to one after three innings.
The Dark Horse offense erupted in the bottom of the fourth inning when they scored four runs to take a 6-3 lead. Unfortunately the Horses could not handle prosperity and committed several errors in the top of the fifth, giving back four runs and the lead as the Patriots pulled ahead 7-6.
The Dark Horses took advantage of Penders generosity in their half of the fifth when Skylar Cannady and Blake Davis reached on errors. Cannady scored the tying run after two straight walks and Davis scored on a passed ball to give the lead back to the Dark Horses. Charles Jordan and Andrew Thornton crossed the plate on wild pitches to cap a four run inning, giving Clinton the three run lead at 10-7 heading into the sixth.
Pender loaded the bases on three Clinton walks in the top of the sixth, then the error bug bit again. In a bizarre play that saw the Dark Horses throw the ball all over the field and allow two runs to score. Then with two outs in the inning, the Horses botched a seemingly routine fielding chance to allow the Patriots to get the tying run across the plate, knotting the score at 10 runs apiece.
The score remained tied at ten until the bottom of the seventh. Chase Jacobs lead off the Clinton seventh and got aboard on a dropped third strike. Jordan Lilliston advanced Jacobs to second on a sacrifice bunt. Bailey Spell drew an intentional walk bringing Jonathan Wright to the plate. Wright flew out to shallow left field for the second out and the Horses only had one more out to work with in regulation play.
Zack Parker stepped in and lifted a routine foul ball to left that looked as if it would fall into the fielders glove and send the game to extra frames. However in fitting fashion for this error filled contest the ball bounced off the heel of the left fielders glove and Logan Spell, who was inserted as a pinch runner, had taken off from second at the crack of the bat and was well on his way to the plate with the winning run before the ball had fallen to the outfield turf.
Clinton was led by Bailey Spell who pitched five and two thirds innings, giving up nine runs with only 2 earned on 7 hits, striking out 4 and walking 4. Spell helped his cause with the bat, going 3 for 3 in five plate appearances, drawing a walk and picking up 2 RBI’s. Jonathan Wright was 1 for 4 at the plate with a double and two RBI’s. Wright pitched an inning and a third in relief, striking out two and giving up one hit and no runs. Zack Parker, Skylar Cannady, Blake Davis and Charles Jordan each collected one hit each for the Dark Horses with Parker and Jordan adding and RBI apiece for the home team.
After the game, Clinton head coach Tracey Thornton said, “there is not much we can say about this one but that we are 1-0 in the conference. The guys didn’t give up, each time they took the lead our guys clawed back in it and were in a position to win in the end. It wasn’t pretty, but it is a win.”
The win improves Clinton to 2-4 overall and 1-0 in Four County Conference play. The Dark Horses travel to East Bladen on Friday to square off with the Eagles in another Four County Conference match-up.
Reach Mike Carter at [email protected]