Clayton outfielder Josh Collins singled in two runs in the top of the seventh inning to set up a bizarre ending in the bottom of the seventh as Clayton took a 5-4 Greater Neuse River Conference baseball win over Harnett Central Friday night.
In the bottom of the inning, Harnett Central (4-4, 3-1) got a leadoff walk from shortstop Justin Perkins. Two outs later, sophomore second baseman Jared Raynor, the No. 3 hitter in the Trojans lineup, hit a long fly ball to centerfield. Collins went back to the fence and jumped for the ball.
Thinking Collins had caught the ball, Raynor reached second base and tossed his batting helmet to the middle of the infield. But the ball had hit off the wall, so the umpires called Raynor out, ending the game.
“Well, I’ve never seen a game end like that,” said Clayton coach Stacey Houser, whose team is 6-4 overall and 2-2 in the league. “This season we haven’t been able to finish games. But tonight we struggled early defensively and at the plate, but continued to battle. We needed this win. Tuesday Harnett Central scored three in the top of the seventh to beat us, 6-5.”
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Central starting pitcher Baker Nelson and Clayton’s John Ross Parrish, a Brunswick Community College recruit, were both pitching well and Central led 3-1 entering the fifth. Clayton’s Dylan Omana walked and lefty first baseman Tyler Tuthill then sparked his team with his second home run of the year, a line drive that cleared the fence in left-center.
“When I got to second, I asked the umpire if it went out,” said Tuthill, who was 3-for-3 and was also hit by a pitch. “I thought maybe it had bounced over.”
Luke Ennis, who pitched the final three innings, picked up the win.
Raynor was the only Trojan with two hits in the game.
“It was a good game, the guys played well,” said Central coach Lance Honeycutt, who said Raynor should have been ejected, not called out for tossing his helmet.