PORTSMOUTH – Defense wins championships, as the old saying goes. Tuesday night’s 3-1 non-league win over Valley, a district champion a season ago, wasn’t a championship, but it’s a win that helps bolster the Clay Panthers resume in this young 2019 season.
“We have the utmost respect for Valley’s program,” said Clay head coach Marc Cottle following Tuesday’s 3-1 win over Valley. “They’re well coached. I know they’ve had a tough start to the season, but I guarantee they’ll be right there by the end of the season come tournament time. We’ve been playing good ball, though, and I’m proud of our boys.”
If it weren’t for the pitching performance from junior ace Dakota Dodds and numerous plays from a defense unwilling to make a single mistake, Clay may have been looking at their second loss this season.
However, Dodds did what Dodds does by striking out batters and putting the ball in play and allowing his defense to pick up the slack as the Panthers claimed their tenth win in eleven tries.
By game’s end, Dodds pitched a complete game allowing just three hits, a run, and no earned runs while striking out eight Indians batters.
“Our defense was pretty good tonight,” said Cottle. “We got the hits when we needed to. Got a bad break there with a double play ball that might have been a few runs. But the big thing is, when we’ve got the big boy, Dakota Dodds, out there, we’re typically going to be in games. He was on tonight. He’s been the ace since his freshman year when he was right there with Brody Riffe. I couldn’t be more proud of Dakota tonight.”
For the game, Clay picked up five hits, two of which came off the bat of right fielder Evan Woods who got the game started with a leadoff double in the bottom of the first inning. Jaden Jesse picked up the lone RBI for the Panthers in the win on a fielder’s choice RBI that scored sophomore Clay Cottle in the bottom of the first.
For Valley, junior Jake Ashkettle gave up no earned runs on the mound pitching all six innings that the Indians took the field while giving up just five hits and striking out five Panthers batters.
Clay’s win Tuesday is important. Defeating a district champion from a season ago, albeit a struggling one, is a tall task.
To check off some of their goals from their list set before the season, one that includes knocking off back-to-back SOC I champion Green, Cottle knows a win like this will be good experience as his group of Panthers hope to knock down some of those barriers.
“This win is definitely a confidence builder. We needed a close game like this. Our games have been nine, ten, eleven runs and this is the type of a game that you need to get ready for the Eastern’s of our league, and definitely the Green’s of our league. A tight game is really what we needed, and it should really help us moving forward.”
Reach Jacob Smith at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1930, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @JacobSmithPDT