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Clark leads Heritage to win

 

Adam Minichino

 

The teaching will continue all season for Steve Hancock and Marion Bratton. 

 

Like all baseball coaches, Hancock and Bratton offer instruction, pointers, and guidance to their players. 

 

This season, though, with two of the youngest teams in the area, both coaches will dip deeper into their baseball knowledge. 

 

On Thursday night, Hancock''s Heritage Academy Patriots showed they are a little more advanced at this point in the season than Bratton''s Oak Hill Academy Raiders. 

 

James Clark pitched a complete-game six-hitter and had two hits and three RBIs to lead Heritage Academy to a 7-2 victory at Trip Carson Field. 

 

"I wanted to get him out of there in the sixth or the seventh, but he started throwing his breaking ball much better the last two innings than he did early on," Hancock said. "It was almost like he never had a feel for it until he got to the sixth or the seventh. In reality, he was stronger and more effective late than he was early. He did a nice job working himself out of trouble and we made a lot of plays defensively that helped him out." 

 

Parker Dunaway had two hits and two RBIs, Tyler Farnham had a single and an RBI, Cole Eller had two hits, and Clark Atkins added a hit for the Patriots (4-0). 

 

After scoring single runs in the first and second innings but leaving other runners stranded in scoring position, the Patriots broke through in the third against starter Kale Pierce. Dunaway and Atkins had doubles in the inning to spark the four-run uprising. 

 

Adam Tumey came on with one out in the third and got the final two outs. He limited Heritage Academy to one run on no hits in the final three innings. 

 

Hancock wasn''t pleased with the way the Patriots closed the game. 

 

"We''re up 7-1 and should end it and they make a pitching change and their kid did a nice job coming in and using off-speed stuff," Hancock said. "It is natural sometimes for a young team to coast a little bit when they start getting leads. We have to work harder with them to develop a little bit of a killer instinct." 

 

With four freshmen in the starting lineup, Hancock knows what Bratton and his coaches are working with this season. He said his pitchers are learning how to be more economical with their pitches and his hitters are understanding better what the Patriots want to do, even if one runner got caught in a rundown between third and home after not executing a sign the right way. 

 

Despite the miscue, Hancock was pleased with his team''s aggressiveness on the bases. The Patriots stole five bases and Farnham executed a squeeze bunt in the third for a run to put pressure on the Raiders. 

 

Still, Hancock said Patriots have to do a better job being more consistent at the plate. 

 

"I thought we got into plus counts a number of times and didn''t take advantage," Hancock said. 

 

Cameron Elis had two hits and two RBIs for the Raiders (1-2). Maverick Smith, Clay Henley, Chance Livingston, and Jeb Stevens also has hits for Oak Hill, which has 12 freshmen and eighth-graders on its 18-player roster. 

 

With seniors Pierce, Ellis, and Davis Clayton and juniors Smith and Kody Riley as the team''s only upperclassmen, Bratton is working a lot on the details. The problem is the Raiders haven''t had much time on the baseball field to work on the fundamentals. 

 

In fact, Thursday''s game was supposed to be played in West Point, but wet field conditions forced Bratton to ask that the game be moved to Columbus. 

 

At times, the Raiders proved to be their own worst enemy. Center fielder Tyler Marchak gunned down two Oak Hill Academy runners (one at third base and one first on the back end of a fine running catch). In all, Oak Hill Academy had three runners erased and another caught stealing by catcher Garrett Hall. 

 

"I thought Tyler Marchak really played great," Hancock said. "Our outfielders did a great job." 

 

Without a starter back from last season, Bratton expects his team to make mistakes. He said it will take repetitions on the field for the teaching really to take hold. 

 

"We''re getting bad jumps on flyballs (because) it is hard to simulate the baserunning (when you''re indoors)," Bratton said. "We just have to get outside, get them some experience, and we have got to play." 

 

Bratton said his players are eager to learn, and it is easy to teach them, but there is a difference when they experience live game action. He said the coaches worked on baserunning fundamentals after mistakes in the first two games and in an exhibition game against Starkville Academy, but he said other players made similar mistakes Thursday. 

 

"We just have to go back to work, back to fundamentals, back to encouraging them, back to teaching, and give them a chance to grow up and get better," Bratton said.  

 

 

Adam Minichino is the Sports Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.

 

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