FRANKLIN FURNACE – As the rain slowly started to fall in the eastern most part of Scioto County, the chances for Green slowly continued to slip away. These chances weren’t just shots at winning a home SOC I game against Clay, but they were slipping away in the Bobcats hopes for a third consecutive SOC I title.
Clay junior Dakota Dodds was pitching a heck of a game, and the Bobcats really had no answer for the lefty ace through six and two thirds innings. But there’s a reason both teams play the full seven innings. With two outs in the bottom of the seventh, trailing by one run, it was desperation time for Bobcat nation.
Then something unbelievable happened. Almost as if it were out of a movie script with two outs in the bottom of the final inning, the three Green seniors (Tanner Kimbler, Tayte Carver, and Bryce Ponn) would have one more shot to send Thursday’s championship game to extra innings.
Kimbler draws a walk, Carver is hit by a Dodds pitch, and now, Green has runners on first and second with Ponn at the plate. Knowing a base hit would drive in the speedy Kimbler from second, Ponn did the one thing he and his teammates have excelled in this season: got a big hit. Except this hit would be more significant than just tying the game.
The laser shot off Ponn’s bat immediately fired back towards Dodds and cracked him in the knee/leg area and dribbled into a gap where no Clay defender stood. Kimbler went home to score, and Dodds went down.
While Dodds lay near the mound, you could hear a pin drop throughout the Furnace. It felt almost certain that Dodds would be replaced and a new Clay pitcher would take the mound. Except for the fact this is Dakota Dodds we’re talking about. The junior lefty struggled to his feet and proceeded to warm back up to ensure he would be able to finish the game from the mound.
He shook off the pain as if nothing had happened, except something major had happened, still needing one out to get his team back to the dugout to give them a chance to retake the lead they had held for the entire game.
“I’ve never been so proud as I am of Dakota,” Clay head coach Marc Cottle said of his junior ace’s toughness. “He took a hard shot and easily could have come out of the game. But he wanted the baseball and wanted to stay in there.”
Dodds got the out and Green left two runners stranded to end the bottom of the seventh with the game tied at 2-2. After an inconsequential eighth inning for both Clay and Green, both Dodds and Kimbler had reached their pitch count limits. By night’s end, Kimbler finished with 8.0 IP allowing six hits, two earned runs, and thirteen strikeouts. Dodds finished Thursday’s game with 8.0 IP, three earned runs, and eight strikeouts.
In the bottom of the ninth after hitting the first batter of the inning, Cottle replaced Dodds with sophomore righty Shaden Malone. Leadoff hitter Eli Webb did his job and placed an excellent sac bunt up the first base line to move Ethan Carpenter, the leadoff runner, over to second base to bring up Kimbler with a chance to win the game.
Cottle made the choice to intentionally walk Kimbler to bring senior Tayte Carver to the plate. Carver, just three days after throwing a perfect game against Symmes Valley through five innings, was ready to make the play only he in that moment could make: end the game with one swing of the bat.
A missile off Carver’s bat on a 1-0 pitch that could undoubtedly be heard all over Scioto County flew over the left field fence and sent the Furnace ablaze with cheers. It was a moment that will go down in Green baseball history. With one swing of the bat, Carver had not only sent Green home with a walk off win, he had sent them home with a share of their third straight SOC I title.
“If you do the right things and make the right plays, baseball will give you a chance to win the ball game,” Green head coach Danny McDavid said following the walk off win. “Tayte walked up with a chance to win the ball game, and he won the ball game. We hung in, they hung in, we just lasted a little longer.”
“This game was one of the toughest losses I’ve been a part of,” Cottle said. “We had some things that didn’t go our way in crucial situations, but you have to tip your hat to Green. I’ve said all along that they are well coached and have some great players.”
Carver’s three run walk off bomb is almost emblematic of this Green senior baseball class. Kimbler, Carver, and Ponn: three Bobcats for the last four seasons, and three future Shawnee State Bears in the diamond. All made the plays their team needed when necessary, a fact that helped swing the game in their favor as Carver’s home run cleared the wall.
“They’re seniors. When those big moments come up, him, Tanner, and Bryce, they’re supposed to take advantage of them,” McDavid said. “What can I say? Tayte’s done it all year, he had a smile on his face before the first pitch. He looked at me and smiled and just hit it.”
Following the Bobcats 5-2 walk off win over the Panthers, Clay and Green will split the SOC I regular season title. This comes after Clay defeated Green 1-0 in ten innings April 24th in Rosemount to earn at least a share of the SOC I title.
For Cottle, that fact still resonates with himself and his team as they look to a hopeful postseason run.
“I’m proud of this team because no one had us at the top of the SOC at the beginning of the year, and we end up as co-champions. Our focus now will turn to the tournament and hopefully we can make a deep run.”
A potential deep run, for both teams, would set up a possible rematch in the Division IV District Final at the VA in Chillicothe May 22nd. While McDavid and his group of Bobcats are hopeful to make it that stage for a winner take all Clay-Green Round III contest, he’s making sure his guys know how important it is to take this run one game at a time.
“It’s survive and advance or go home. That’s your choices. We’re definitely going to work on base running, the little things in the game where we’ve had a couple defensive lapses. We’re just going to take it as we have every day, one day at a time.”
Clay begins their postseason run Tuesday May 14th against the winner of Western Pike and Peebles in a sectional final while Green hosts Manchester on the same day in their sectional final.
Reach Jacob Smith at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1930, by email at email@example.com, or on Twitter @JacobSmithPDT © 2019 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved