The Clinton Dark Horses and Lakewood Leopards met at Clinton High School’s baseball complex on Wednesday night to decide the title of the 2014 edition of the Jimmy Raynor Easter Tournament. The large crowd on hand was treated to a fine high school baseball game in near perfect spring weather.
The teams quickly settled into a defensive battle that featured two strong pitching performances. Alex Purcell took the hill for the Dark Horses with freshman hurler Zack Tanner handling the pitching duties for the Leopards. Both pitchers went the distance combining for 21 strikeouts over 8 innings and yielding only one walk.
Lakewood struck first in the top of the second inning scoring their first run on a wild pitch then adding a second run when Chandler Honeycutt singled up the middle with two outs to make the score 2-0. Clinton put runners on base in the bottom of the second and third but were turned back by good pitching and timely defense. Carlon Cannady, Lakewood’s second baseman held down the pivot on nice 6 to 4 to 3 double play to erase the Dark Horse threat in the bottom of the third inning.
Clinton finally got on the board in the bottom of the fourth when Tyler Johnson drove the ball into right center pushing Chandler Whitfield in from second base on a nice hit and run play. The Dark Horses would tie the score in the bottom of the fourth when Tyler McNeil laid down a nice but for a hit to lead off the inning. McNeil took second on a steal and was advanced to third by a Kris Royal Sacrifice and shortly raced home on a wild pitch to tie the score at 2 runs apiece.
The score stayed tied at 2-2 for the remainder of regulation with both Purcell and Tanner gaining momentum on the mound as game wore on. Clinton threatened again in the bottom of the fifth putting runners on second and third with one out only to watch as Tanner struck out the last two batters to get out of the inning. Likewise, Lakewood had two runners in scoring position in the sixth inning when Purcell rung up the final batter to send the Leopards back into the field.
With neither team able to break the tie in regulation, the game headed to the eighth inning. Lakewood was unable to do any damage in the top of the inning as Purcell showed no signs of fatigue on the mound. Tournament MVP, Wade Sumner, led off the bottom half of the inning bunting his way aboard. Chandler Whitfield followed Sumner with a beautiful bunt in front of the mound. Tanner fielded the ball wheeled and threw wildly to first base. The resulting error allowed a streaking Sumner to score the winning run from first base.
“I am proud of the way our pitchers performed during the tournament. Alex was a little shaky early in the game tonight but got stronger and stronger as the game wore on, and pitched his best the last two innings,” said Clinton head coach Thornton. Purcell struck out 7 giving up no walks. Thornton also praised Wade Sumner’s hustle with his initiative to bunt his way aboard in the final inning when they had struggled to hit Tanner all night.
Lakewood’s coach, Raymond Spell, praised his team’s grit and his freshman pitcher’s 14 strikeout, 1 walk performance saying, “Zack pitched a great game for us tonight and I am proud of the way our team has improved throughout the season.”
Offensively Clinton scattered 9 hits, Wyman Faison had a triple and single, Chandler Whitfield had two hits and an RBI, Tyler Johnson had one hit and an RBI, Wade Sumner, Jake Taylor, Tyler McNeil and Bailey Spell added hit apiece. The Dark Horses will enjoy the remainder of spring break before returning to action on next Tuesday for a Four County Conference home game against Midway.