PORTSMOUTH — Jaden Jessee, Dakota Dodds and Clay Cottle may have never taken a postgame ice bath in their lives, until Wednesday evening.
But after doing their parts in a critical 1-0 win over Green in 10 innings, each deserved the dowsing as much as the other. The win gave the Panthers (16-2, 10-0 SOC I) a one-game lead in the conference standings at a late juncture, and provided the Panthers momentum for the rest of the regular season.
And, as a line score filled to the brim with zeroes might suggest, drama, excellent pitching and outstanding defense were commonplace.
Green (16-2, 9-1 SOC I) sent senior Tanner Kimbler to the mound while junior Dakota Dodds got the ball for the Panthers. Both were equally as outstanding, throwing nine-plus innings and habitually mowing down the opposing offense like a hot knife on butter.
Dodds dug deep in his arsenal to pull out a pitch he hasn’t called upon much this year. It helped him toss all 10 innings, surrender just seven hits, hold the Bobcats scoreless and whiff 11.
“Their top three or four hitters can really hit the ball. Coach Cottle and I really worked on the change-up [beforehand] and I really haven’t thrown it all year,” Dodds said. “It got me some really big outs tonight. I’m just proud of my defense. No matter what happens, they have my back.”
Dodds’ defense was indeed spectacular. Time after time, when Green made solid contact, the Panthers were there to steal a base hit from the box score. Clay coach Marc Cottle made note of his team’s glovework while taking a deep breath after the win.
“That was one of the more nerve-wracking games I’ve ever been a part of,” Cottle said. “But I really feel like we had some players step up. Our defense was there to back up Dakota. That’s a great baseball game.”
While Dodds and his defense continued to impress, the same could be said about Kimbler and his teammates behind him. The Green senior threw nine innings in a no decision, giving up nine hits, not allowing a run and striking out six.
Of the nine hits Kimbler allowed, Clay Cottle had four of them — two doubles and two singles.
“We’ve prepared for this game my whole life pretty much,” the sophomore said. “All the preparation has allowed me to see the ball better. [Kimbler] is a great pitcher. But I just saw the ball really well tonight and I just put it in gaps.”
Speaking of finding a gap, Jessee found the most important opening of the night in the bottom of the 10th inning.
Tanner Richards drew a walk to begin the inning before moving to second on a sacrifice bunt from Evan Woods. The Bobcats then chose to intentionally walk Cottle. Reece Whitley followed Cottle’s walk with a single, loading the bases and setting the stage for late inning heroics.
On the biggest stage, in the biggest moment, Jessee delivered the biggest hit. He lined a ground ball into right field, sending Richards home and giving Clay an imperative one-run win.
“I just started celebrating,” Jessee said, smiling. “I jump in the air, throw everything … I was tickled that we won that way.”
After Cottle’s 4-for-4 performance, Jessee was 2-for-4 with the game’s only RBI. Green’s offense was led by Kimbler, who was 2-for-5 while Tayte Carver was 2-for-4. Bryce Ponn was 1-for-5 with a double and took the loss on the hill.
Both teams get another chance at each other, Friday in Franklin Furnace. A win for Clay would wrap up a conference title.
“We still have to come back and beat [Green] Friday and we have to play Symmes Valley, who’s always tough,” Dodds said. “Coach [Danny] McDavid will have them ready. We just need to throw strikes.”
Reach Derrick Webb at @dw1509 on Twitter or by email at email@example.com.
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