FRANKLIN FURNACE — Faith is a great quality to have when one goes up against tough situations in his or her life.
And with an 8-0 record in SOC I conference play coming into its battle with the Notre Dame Titans, it’s evident that the Green Bobcats have exercised that faith — both as a team and as a unit — throughout the 2017 campaign.
It was evident again on Friday evening, when Chase Clark — who batted the wrong way from the plate with two outs in the fifth inning — jumped on a CJ Corns pitch from the bottom of the order and nailed the junior’s ball to right field.
The resulting hit scored Bryce Ponn and Rylee Maynard to give the Bobcats a 7-6 lead after five innings of play, and Green held off a strong Notre Dame squad, 8-7, in a SOC I bout on Friday evening in Franklin Furnce to move to 14-3 overall and 9-0 in conference play in a thrilling affair between two scrappy ballclubs.
For Dan McDavid, faith has become a familiar word to the Bobcats
“The kids just did not quit,” McDavid said. “They just kept grinding, grinding, and grinding, and found a way to come out on top. That wasn’t our best game. We can play better defensively, for sure, but the true grit and determination got us through. It’s a great group of kids. They just keep plugging away.”
As for Drew Mader, the veteran head coach of the Titans’ unit was still quite pleased with his team’s effort, even in defeat.
“We woke up tonight,” Mader said. “I’m proud of the guys for how we responded. We jumped out to an early lead and took a couple of leads here and there. It was just some mental mistakes and errors that killed us. We let too many balls drop and hit the ground where I really think that we could’ve made plays. Nine times out of 10, we make those plays. Hat’s off to Green.”
In the opening frames, however, it was Notre Dame who took control early on.
After Tanner Kimbler sat down Sam Kayser and Cameron Rodriguez swinging, singles by Drew Cassidy and Tyler Speas allowed the former to score on an infield error by the Bobcats as the Titans took a 1-0 advantage after an inning of play.
“It doesn’t matter where you hit in the order,” Mader said. “You can hit in the beginning, the middle, or the end. But when you get to the plate, you’ve got one job, and that’s to produce. Put the ball in play. Do something, because at this level, anything can happen. Somebody could trip, fall, bobble the ball, anything like that. We’ve got some guys that can run. Just put it on the infield, put it on the grass and stuff, and good things can happen. There’s nothing to be ashamed about if you get on via an error, because you’re applying pressure to someone.”
The Notre Dame order then produced again as the Titans quickly added on to their lead in the third inning of play. A single and a stolen base by Kayser was followed by another base hit by Cassidy. Even though Cassidy would’ve beat the throw to first base anyway, another infield error by Green allowed the former to score as Notre Dame increased its lead to a 2-0 margin. Cassidy then stole second, and a walk by Tyler Speas allowed CJ Corns to drive Cassidy in and move Speas over to second. Singles by Truman Hash and Grant Sparks — the latter resulting in an RBI — allowed Speas to come home as the Titans took a 4-0 advantage after two and a half innings of play.
However, Kimbler recovered from the rough inning by turning a 1-2-3 double play to end the frame, and as a result, Green was able to translate that momentum from the inning-ending double play to the offensive end of the spectrum.
“The attitude was fine,” McDavid said of the team’s morale following the inning. “We were just telling them, ‘We need baserunners. I don’t care how you get on base; we need baserunners.”
And in the bottom of the third, Green did exactly that.
With one out in the frame, Kimbler got the rally going with a double to left field, and Tyler Darnell followed with his own double to right field to score the sophomore.
Then, following an error in the outfield, Trevor Carver used his single back up the middle to score not only Darnell, but his brother, Tayte, as the Bobcats cut the gap to a 4-3 margin in one fellow swoop.
“They’re a team that hits well from the plate, and it showed tonight,” Mader said. “They sat on CJ (Corns’) fastball and things. Did they hit him around? A couple of times, but nothing crazy or anything like that. I believe that CJ handled himself very well as a pitcher and as a leader on this team.”
Notre Dame, however, responded in the top half of the fourth with its own juice, as Trevon Turner’s single and an error allowed Cassidy to plate two on a double as the Titans took a 6-3 advantage after three and a half innings of play.
“Our approach and production at the plate was a lot better,” Mader said. “Coming from a shutout tonight to producing as many runs as we did against a good ballclub is a credit to the guys. We got to (Tanner) Kimbler early and stayed on him. We kept the gas pedal down, but Green made a good change and brought (Trevor) Carver in there to pitch against us. He was in the strike zone all night too. So I’m pleased with how we hit the ball, especially compared to not being able to hit the ball at all (on Thursday). I’m very pleased with that, and I wish that we could’ve obtained the win, but that’s baseball. Someone has to lose.”
However, after two walks and a single allowed Kimbler to produce a run on a 4-6-3 double play that cut the lead to a 6-4 tally, the Green offensive attack exploded in the fifth inning.
After a walk by Tayte Carver got things going, Trevor Carver scored his younger brother with an RBI double to cut the deficit to 6-5, and an infield error by Notre Dame, along with an intentional walk with two outs, allowed the Bobcats to load the bases.
That scenario allowed Clark, the team’s nine-hole hitter at the back of the order, to come up to the plate with a chance to give the Bobcats the advantage. Sure enough, Clark did exactly that as the first year player’s single to right field scored Trevor Carver and Bryce Ponn to give Green a 7-6 advantage. Tanner Kimbler finished off the comeback with his RBI single through the left side of the diamond as the Bobcats turned a 4-0 deficit into an 8-6 lead after five innings of play.
“And Chase was batting the wrong way,” McDavid said. “He’s a switch-hitter, and he wasn’t feeling really comfortable left-handed up there. So when he went into the right-handed box, I shrugged my shoulders and he just grinned at me. Two pitches up, he shoots that single to right and next thing you know, we’ve got the lead.”
Still, Notre Dame didn’t give in. Two Green errors allowed the Titans to put runners on first and third with no outs, which forced the Bobcats into a pitching change.
However, other than an intentional walk to Speas, Trevor Carver allowed Green to escape major damage as a sacrifice fly RBI from Corns to shallow right field was all that Notre Dame could muster, and Carver followed the sixth frame by retiring three of the four Titans that he faced as Green held on for the 8-7 victory.
While both teams know that there’s another contest to be played on Monday evening in Portsmouth, McDavid likes where his team sits as far as the overall conference race is concerned. Green can clinch the SOC I title by defeating Notre Dame and taking one of two bouts against Western, but the Titans could keep their hopes for a conference title alive if they defend their home turf successfully.
“We control our own destiny,” McDavid said. “We like that feeling.”