ROSEMOUNT — In the game of baseball, making routine plays are critical if a unit wants to get out of a hard-fought battle with a victory.
On Saturday afternoon, the Green Bobcats did that in spades as the SOC I stronghold committed just one error in the defensive infield.
That effort, along with excellent pitching performances from Trevor Carver and Tanner Kimbler and three RBI from Drew Ramey and Tayte Carver, allowed Green to move to 9-3 on the year and 6-0 in conference play with a victory over the Clay Panthers on Saturday afternoon in Rosemount.
For Dan McDavid, the victory — and the resulting sweep of the Panthers — was especially satisfying considering the manner in how it was handled.
“Clay’s a good ballclub,” McDavid said. “To come out and get a win, especially in the manner that we did it with good baseball being played on both sides, was great to see. That makes this victory even more satisfying.”
But as satisfying as the affair was for McDavid, the contest was equally as disappointing to Marc Cottle, especially considering that Clay committed five errors on the day.
“We gave Green the game with the four unearned runs,” Cottle said. “If we don’t commit the errors, it’s a different game. We have to cut down on the errors and the mental mistakes. When you’re playing a good, well-coached team that has excellent pitching in its arsenal, you can’t make mistakes that will give them runs. That’s the bottom line.”
For the first four innings of play, the contest looked as if it would be a pitching duel between Trevor Carver and Brody Riffe. Carver struck out seven batters and gave up only four hits in six innings of work, while Riffe punched out five Bobcats and gave up just five hits in five innings on the hill.
“Trevor’s done a really effective job for us,” McDavid said. “We hate to move him out from behind the plate (at catcher), because he’s excellent in that area, as well, but he’s done a heck of a job for us this year.”
“I’m pleased with our pitching,” Cottle said. “Brody, Dakota (Dodds), and Reece (Whitley) all performed well (on Saturday),” Cottle said. “But again, it all comes back to cutting down our errors in the field.”
And Green’s ability to field the ball cleanly proved to be the difference in the contest.
Behind back-to-back-to-back base knocks in the second inning from Riffe, Whitley, and Dodds, Clay was able to plate a run across in the bottom half of the second inning.
However, Green answered with a pair of runs on its own behind the effective baserunning tactics employed by McDavid and company.
After an error in the first inning and a stolen base by Tyler Darnell, Tayte Carver singled Darnell home with his rope into the outfield. Carver went 1-for-2 with two walks, a stolen base and a RBI to continue his tear at the plate.
“Tayte’s just been killing the ball this year,” McDavid said. “There’s been a couple of times this year where he’s gotten robbed of hits because he’s hit the ball right at the defense, but he’s been crushing the ball all year long. Trevor hit a shot to right field that was a pretty good shot, too. We’re hitting the ball pretty well, and we’re starting to get a consistent offense together as a result.”
In the top half of the third inning of play, the Bobcats’ baserunning aggressiveness paid dividends, as Green retook the lead behind a single from Kimbler, a 1-3 sacrifice bunt by Darnell, and a throwing error following a 1-3 putout that allowed Kimbler to race home from third base.
“We’ve really tried to concentrate on our baserunning and taking advantage of situations on the basepaths when the opportunity comes,” McDavid said. “Over the last week, our guys have done a great job in tilting those advantages to their favor. Some of those guys will get thrown out by doing that because we’re pretty aggressive, but we’ve done a good job of creating opportunities in an effort to obtain runs.”
As the game went on, Carver and Riffe only got more effective, as the pair combined to strike out five of the next dozen batters that came to the plate in the bottom of the third and through the top of the fourth.
Green, however, found the winning riddle.
After a 4-3 groundout by Kimbler to lead off the inning, a single by Darnell, along with a passed ball and a wild pitch, allowed the center fielder to scoot over to third base. Then, after escaping a 1-2-5-2 rundown on an error, a walk to Tayte Carver and an error allowed Darnell to score. Drew Ramey then finished the gamebreaking inning by ripping a hard-hit ball to right field, which allowed Tayte Carver and Trevor Carver to score as Green increased its lead to a 5-1 advantage.
From there, Green had little trouble — until the top half of the seventh.
Dodds and Whitley, who each put together excellent efforts in the contest, led off the home half of the seventh and final frame by collecting a hit and a four-pitch walk, respectively, to put runners on first and second with nobody out. Tanner Richards then followed by taking three straight Trevor Carver pitches for balls, which forced McDavid to make a pitching change.
Kimbler, however, was more than up for the task. The sophomore threw three straight pitches by Richards, and, after an error scored Whitley, struck out Bradley McCleese and forced Cole Gilliland into a six-unassisted putout to pick up the victory for the Bobcats.
“I don’t think that Trevor was over 95 pitches (on Saturday), but he was starting to tire a bit on the mound, so we went to Tanner knowing that he was ready, and he made an excellent pitching appearance for us, as well,” McDavid said. “They both did a great job.”
With the victory, Green moves to the aforementioned 9-3 record, including an unblemished 6-0 mark in the SOC I. The Bobcats will host East on Monday evening.
“We’ve got a big week starting Monday,” McDavid said. “We have six games next week, so we’re going to be packed full of games. I told the kids, ‘Smile. You’re getting to do what major leaguers do.’”
As for Clay, the Panthers will have to rebound again after falling to 4-6 overall and 2-4 in the SOC I. They’ll play Ironton St. Joseph in Ironton on Monday evening.
“We’ve got six games next week, so we’ve really got to keep our heads up and battle,” Cottle said. “There’s a lot of games there on the table, and hopefully, we’ll get a few wins.”
Reach Kevin Colley at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1930 OR on Twitter @ColleyKevin7