July 7, 2009
Adam Minichino - [email protected]
Momentum is a key ingredient of games at any age level.
But Uncle Mo'' is especially important when you''re competing for a chance to advance to a World Series.
The Clinton Arrows showed Monday night how crucial getting momentum on their side can be.
Parker Lee worked out of a no-out, bases-loaded jam in the bottom of the first inning to help Clinton preserve a lead en route to an 8-4 victory against the Columbus Nationals in a winners'' bracket game of the 10-year-old Dizzy Dean South Half state tournament at Propst Park.
The victory pushed Clinton into the championship series at 6 p.m. today. Clinton will face the winner of today''s 4 p.m. game between the Columbus Nationals and Ackerman, which won two games Monday.
In its first game, Ackerman defeated West Point 10-4. It then waited out Eupora, which beat Grenada P&R 7-6 in eight innings, and earned a 7-0 victory.
Ackerman has won six consecutive games since it lost to West Point 15-4 on Friday on the tournament''s opening day.
Clinton has had similar success, posting four consecutive victories, all in the winners'' bracket.
Its latest victory came thanks to solid pitching from Lee and Payton Deaver, who each pitched three innings.
Lee''s effort in the first set the tone. Trailing 2-0, Tyler Anderson reached on an outfield error to start the bottom of the first for the Columbus Nationals. Thomas Stevens singled and Deonteau Rieves was hit by a pitch to load the bases with no outs for cleanup hitter LaQuinston Sharp.
On Sunday, Sharp ripped a two-run home run over the right-center field fence. On Monday, his first at-bat sent a shiver of anticipation through the Columbus side of the cheering section.
But Lee remained unfazed. He caught Sharp looking with a pitch on the outside corner. Although Anderson scored on a passed ball, Lee struck out Logan Sneed and Thomas Cooper looking, too, to escape the threat.
Clinton manager Malcolm Williamson said Lee, the team''s No. 1 pitcher, pitched well in the first three innings. He said Deaver also delivered a strong effort and received a solid defensive effort behind him to help the team remain unbeaten.
"I think we hit the ball as well as they did," Williamson said. "I am proud of every one of our kids."
Dawson Freibert (three hits) and Spencer Williamson each had three RBIs to spark Clinton. Freibert had a two-run double in the a four-run third inning that gave Clinton the cushion it needed.
But both coaches agreed Lee''s ability to work out of trouble in the bottom of the first was critical.
"They could have had a big inning and the kids stepped up and played well," Williamson said. "I don''t think that team had been behind in the tournament. We knew it was emotionally big for our team and probably pretty devastating for them."
Said Columbus Nationals coach Rory Sneed, "That was huge. They scored two in the top of the first and nobody seemed the least bit concerned about that. We came up and got the first three guys on and I thought we were fixin'' to roll. All of a sudden we strike out three guys in a row."
Columbus didn''t score again until the fifth when it tacked on three runs on a single by Anderson, a triple by Stevens, a groundout by Rieves, a single by Sharp, a walk to Dalton Ford, and a single by Kyle Cruthirds.
Stevens and Rieves added singles in the bottom of the sixth, but a rally never materialized.
"Everything went right yesterday (in a 21-4 victory against Eupora) and today everything that could go wrong went wrong," Sneed said. "Defensively, we played terribly bad and we got off to a slow start pitching. It snowballed. I think the kids lost some confidence after they got behind and started to get a little anxious at the plate."
The Columbus Nationals popped out seven times, which Sneed said reflected his hitters'' anxiousness at the plate.
The four runs were a far cry from the Columbus Nationals'' offensive production in their first three games. The team had scored 47 runs in its first three games, which concerned Williamson, but he knew his pitchers were up to the challenge.
"Location is everything," Williamson said. "If you keep the ball down they can''t hit the ball too far, until the last out (a flyball to deep left-center field by Sharp).
As for the Columbus Nationals, Sneed was concerned about his team following the loss but he said a talk helped put everyone in the right frame of mind that will help the team rebound today.
"I expect us to come back and to play hard (Tuesday) and maybe we can play again Wednesday," Sneed said. "We''ll do the best we can to win three in a row and be done with it."
n Ackerman 10, West Point 4: Mo Harding had a two-run single and Dillon Jones and Carson Clement (double) had two hits to help Ackerman win its first of two games.
Hayes Wood also had a hit for Ackerman, which capitalized on two errors in a five-run sixth inning that broke open a close game.
Ackerman scored four runs with two outs in the sixth to tack on some insurance runs that helped eliminate West Point.
"Today the bats weren''t as good as they were Sunday," West Point manager Kevin Thompson said. "We made some good plays and didn''t have as many fundamental errors, but we didn''t get the consecutive hits. We had a few mental mistakes on the basepaths, but they are 10-year-old boys."
Ryan Crowley and Dylan Scott each had two hits, and Collins Brown had two RBIs for West Point, which went 2-2 in the 16-team tournament.
Tae Hampton and Tyler Harris also had hits for West Point, which scored one run in the first and tacked on two more in the second but then went cold.
"You wouldn''t have thought (our offense would have scored only four runs after that start), but you just never know how the ball is going to bounce," Thompson said. "They kind of got down on themselves and it went from there.
"Everybody played hard, and we''re proud of all of the kids. We had a good showing."
Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.