Clayton baseball coach Stacey Houser had one vital post-game message for his Comets squad Tuesday afternoon.
“It’s better when you don’t play well and win, and learn from that,” Houser related, “than it is to not play well and lose. We did not play well at all today.”
After committing six errors and having three runners thrown out, the Comets played well when they needed to, rallying from a 4-2 deficit to secure a 5-4, extra-inning victory over previously undefeated county rival Corinth Holders in a non-conference battle.
Clayton (2-1) leveled the score at 4-all with a two-run sixth-inning rally, and scored the game winner with no outs in the bottom of the eighth.
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That winning rally was jump-started, ironically enough, on a throwing error by the Pirates, who had built their 4-2 lead on the strength of three Comets throwing errors.
Cole Hinnant opened the eighth with a single to right. Trying to make something happen, he took off in hopes of stealing second base.
Pirates relief pitcher Jake Lewis threw behind Hinnant in an attempt to pick him off in a run-down, but Hinnant beat the throw to second, with the ball rolling into left field. Hinnant raced to third on the error, and later scored on a single to right by Brett Clark.
“I like the way our guys competed today,” Houser said. “We got down, and we didn’t play well but we competed.
“We gathered ourselves and made plays, Brandon Boykin pitched well and we got hits when we needed them.”
Clayton belted six consecutive singles to open the sixth, but it appeared as if the inning would come up empty when the first two hits were erased on base-running errors.
With the Comets trailing 4-2, Boykin singled but the courtesy runner was picked off at first by relief pitcher Tyler Brown. Marshall Creech then singled, and courtesy runner Sterling Reed took second when Brown’s pickoff throw wasn’t fielded cleanly. Reed took off for third, only to be thrown out.
Creech was 4-for-5 to lead a 16-hit attack for the Comets.
After that, the Comets settled for station-to-station baseball on singles by Drew Bouemot, Hinnant and Clark, all three enjoying two-hit days for Clayton.
Blake Joyner, who was 3-for-4 at the plate, came through with the biggest hit, a two-run single that tied the score.
“Most, if not all of those hits came with two strikes,” Houser said. “And all but one was either right up the middle or in right center. It shows our kids weren’t trying to place the ball.”
Corinth Holders coach Adam Weaver said the sixth-inning rally was due to the Comets having a “good two-strike approach at the plate.”
“The outcome of the game was decided by one thing,” Weaver said. “They got it done, while we didn’t.”
The Pirates (2-1) got it done in the early innings, taking advantage of three errors on pickoff moves by the Comets. Adam Evans singled and moved to second on an errant throw in the second inning, scoring on sacrifices by Tyler Barritt and Cameron Brewer to tie the game.
The fourth inning saw Clayton miscues lead to three Pirates runs and the 4-2 Corinth Holders lead.
Barritt, who was 2-for-3, doubled to start the inning, moving to third on Brewer’s sacrifice bunt. Brewer reached safely when the throw to first was wild, and Barritt scored the tying run. When Brewer displayed aggressiveness on the base paths, a throwing error allowed him to take second and a sacrifice moved him to third.
Following a walk to Bobby Beare, Brewer was erased in a rundown on Oakley Wallrich’s grounder, but a double by Lewis to the fence in center drove in Beare and Wallrich with the go-ahead runs.
Clayton then brought in Boykin in relief of starter Sam May, and he slammed the door on the Pirates, limiting them to four hits over 4 1/3 innings while walking one batter and striking out three.