Clinton and Lakewood faced off in the final game of the Jimmy Raynor Easter Tournament on Wednesday night at the CHS Baseball Complex. With the tourney championship on the line, the Dark Horses relied on a strong pitching performance and some timely hitting to hold off the Leopards in route to a 5-3 win and the tournament title.
Clinton took the early advantage, picking up a second inning run on a Leopard throwing error. Blake Davis scored from second when Lakewood mishandled a Logan Spell grounder that would have ended the inning.
The Leopards tied the game in the top of the third when Chandler Ray drew a one out walk, stole second and was chased home by Spencer Ray’s double to center-field. The Leopards were unable to do further damage as they left Spencer Ray stranded to end their half of the third.
Clinton added two runs in the bottom of the third when Charles Jordan led off the inning with a base hit to left and took second on an errant throw by the pitcher attempting to hold him on first. Jordan took third base on a steal and scored when Bailey Spell drove a single into right center to put the Horses back on top. Blake Davis sent a single to left field driving pinch runner Chase Jacobs in from second base to put the Horses on top 3-1.
Bailey Spell was at it again in the bottom of the fifth when he ripped a single to center. Chase Jacobs came on to pinch run for Spell and quickly advanced to third base on a perfectly executed hit and run play, when Zack Parker lined the ball to left giving the Dark Horses runners on the corners with no outs. After a walk loaded the bases the Leopards went to the bullpen bringing Matt Butler to the mound in relief of Aaron Butler. Jacobs crossed the plate on a Jordan Lilliston chopper back up the middle to give the Horses a 4-1 advantage. The Dark Horses were unable to capitalize on the bases loaded situation as Matt Butler got a third consecutive ground ball to end the inning.
Meanwhile Bailey Spell was breezing throughout the Leopard lineup with apparent ease. The Leopards got a base-runner on in the sixth, drawing a one out walk but Spell stymied batter after batter to retire the Leopards without any further damage.
Clinton added another run in their half of the sixth in a two out rally. Charles Jordan got aboard after being hit by a pitch, stole second and was driven in by Bailey Spell with his third single of the night, a sharply hit ball to right field. Chase Jacobs once again came on to pinch run for Spell who had taken second on the throw to the plate. Clinton’s Zack Parker stung a line drive up the middle for a hit, Lakewood’s Zach Tanner picked up the ball, fired it to home plate where Spencer Ray was waiting for Chase Jacobs, tagging an airborne Jacobs out for the final out of the inning.
Bailey Spell looked untouchable in the top of the seventh retiring the first two Leopards before Chandler Ray ripped a two out double into center-field to keep Lakewood’s hopes alive. Zach Tanner beat out a dribbler down the first base line and drove in Ray from second in the process to pull the Leopard within in three at 5-2. Tanner scored from first when Spencer Ray hit a line drive into left field that got past a charging Andrew Thornton to bring the tying run to the plate. After a coaches’ visit to the mound Bailey Spell settled in and got a four pitch strikeout to end the game and clinch the tournament title for the Dark Horses with the 5-3 win.
After the game, Clinton head coach Tracey Thornton praised his senior pitcher.
“Bailey Spell pitched well for us tonight, and he is tearing the cover off the ball at the plate,” said the Dark Horse head man. “Zack Parker is also hitting the ball well for the last few games. I am proud of the boys. It got a little hairy at the end but we hung on and got the win. I always like to play well in front of Coach Raynor, I feel like it is our test every year. He has done so much for Clinton High School and our community, we just want to do well when he comes out to watch us play.”
Spell, who was named MVP of the tournament, was dominant on the mound for the Dark Horses. He gave up 3 runs, scattering 6 hits while striking out 9 batters. Spell continued his hot hitting, going 3 for 3 with three singles, two RBIs and a run. Zack Parker also had a three hit performance and scored a run for Clinton. Charles Jordan had a single and scored two runs, Blake Davis added an RBI single and scored a run and went 1 for 3 with a single and stolen base.
The Leopard’s Zach Tanner went 3 for 4 at the plate with three singles, an RBI and scored a run. Spencer Ray went 2 for 4 with two singles Chandler Ray was 1 for 3 with a double and scored twice. Aaron Butler started on the mound for Lakewood and went four innings, giving up four runs on 8 hits striking out two. Matt Butler came on in relief and gave up a run on two hits in two innings of work.
Lakewood’s head coach Jay Faircloth was disappointed with the loss, but found some positives in his team’s performance. “One thing has hurt us in every loss this season, and that’s errors. We had five of them tonight. This was a good game, we got some hits but we just couldn’t tie enough of them together,” he said. “
We got a good pitching performance from our freshman Aaron Butler, he gave us four strong innings, did exactly what we needed him to and we just couldn’t make the plays for him. His brother, Matt Butler, came in and did a good job getting us out of a jam, pitching well for two innings. Clinton has a good team, but this is a heart breaker, we just feel like we beat ourselves tonight.”
The win improves Clinton’s record to 6-4. The Dark Horses have run off six straight wins after opening the season 0-4. Lakewood falls to 3-6 on the season, as both teams look to get into the meat of their conference schedules next week. Clinton will travel to Trask on next Tuesday and Lakewood takes to the road for a conference tilt against Neuse Charter.
Reach Mike Carter at [email protected]