A four-run outburst helped Clayton build a lead early in its Tar Heel Leagues District V Midget League championship game against Cleveland at Smithfield Community Park Friday night.
Clayton would still need to dig a bit deeper for another four-run outburst, however, in the bottom of the fifth inning to finally dispatch a pesky Cleveland team 10-6.
After Cleveland posted three runs apiece in its half of the forth and fifth innings to knot the game up, Clayton responded with four hits in the bottom of the fifth to enter the state tournament as the District V Champion.
Dylan Holbrook and Hugh Collins reached base with singles to left field before Jason Blackley’s two-run double and an RBI single from Jack McIntosh broke the game open. McIntosh would later score on a grounder for an insurance run.
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“My guys didn’t give up,” Clayton coach Jason Lewis said. “They just came through and pulled through there at the end.”
After seeing three runs cross the plate the inning before, Clayton pitcher Jacob Farmer battled back with an impressive sixth inning as Farmer struck out three Cleveland batters in the frame to secure the win.
Cleveland posted three runs in the fourth inning thanks to a Trey Fields RBI single that scored Parker Wolf and a pair of runs that came as a result of wild pitches.
Similarly in the fifth, Zack Blalock and Matthew Hall came through with run-producing base hits, as Cleveland would load the bases with two outs before William Parsons recorded the key third out with a strikeout.
Another key component in the Clayton win was a pair of assists from Adam Sutphin who threw out runners at the plate in both the third and sixth innings to stem the tide a bit.
“He’s got a cannon for an arm,” Lewis said of Sutphin, who began the game as Clayton’s starting pitcher. “Not only did he make good throws but we made good catches at the plate with two different catchers on those plays—Jason Blackley and J.T. Deichmueller.
“We made great plays there; that was a difference of three runs there and that changed the momentum.”
Attempting to help sway the momentum in Cleveland’s favor was Parker Wolf and his solid relief appearance on the mound that slowed down the Clayton bats after the four-run first inning to keep Cleveland hanging around.
“He gave us stability on the mound,” Cleveland coach Brian Glass said. “He gave us the stability we were looking for and we responded with the bats and we got right back in it.”
Cleveland will also represent District V in the upcoming state tournament to be held at the Smithfield and Clayton Community Parks and the improved showing against Clayton the second time around has Glass excited.
“That’s a much better game that we played than we did the first time,” Glass said after Clayton defeated his club 11-1 in the first game of the tournament. “I’m very proud of the effort that everybody put forth tonight.
“The difference was that they were engaged, they were ready and they did everything I asked them to do, we just came up a little short.”