CHILLICOTHE – With a spot in the Division IV district finals on the line, Clay’s bats made the trip north to carry the Panthers to a 10-3 win over the South Webster Jeeps.
In their district semifinal win over Jeeps, Clay totaled twelve hits, the biggest of which was an Evan Woods two RBI double up the left field line in the bottom of the sixth. That fact, along with the fact that the Panthers had junior ace Dakota Dodds on the mound, helped propel them to earn a spot in Wednesday’s district final.
“I have to give credit to Dakota,” Clay head coach Marc Cottle following their 10-3 win over the Jeeps. “Very few people knew this, but he was sick as a dog. He came out and struggled the first couple innings, but he really battled. A couple of innings he almost came in and almost puked in the dugout, but he’s the kind of kid who comes in the dugout and says give me the ball.”
“We’re definitely disappointed at the way the game went down today,” said Jeeps head coach Ryan McClintic following the loss. “But looking back back at our season, we’ve gotten better every week. Early in the year, I’m not so sure they thought we could be here. But us coaches believed, got them to believe it and we played better baseball as the year went on.”
South Webster scored the first run of Tuesday’s district semifinal game via a Riley Cook RBI single which scored leadoff runner Gabe Ruth.
In the bottom of the first, Clay’s Jaden Jesse hit into a fielder’s choice which scored Clay Cottle to knot things up at one. Two errors and two singles helped bring home four Clay runs in the bottom of the third to give Clay their first lead of the game at 5-1.
RBI Singles by Levi Murphy and Gabe Ruth in the top of the fourth helped cut the Jeeps deficit in half at 5-3.
Clay’s Reece Whitley picked up his second RBI of the game in the bottom of the fourth while Garrett Beegan delivered on an RBI sac fly to center field in the bottom of the fifth to give the Panthers a 7-3 lead.
Evan Woods helped extend the lead for Clay with a double up the left field line which scored two Clay runners. Shaden Malone’s sacrifice RBI helped score the final run of the game to bring the final score to 10-3.
Dodds pitched a complete game in the win allowing just five hits, one earned run while striking out ten Jeep batters.
“Late inning hits, Evan Woods with a big two RBI double down the left field line that really broke the game open,” Cottle said about his team’s hitting. “The big difference between our team this year and last is our hitting. We’ve been working hard in the weight room, working on our hitting with our machine that really pumps it in there to them. Last year a fast ball would defeat us, this year a fast ball is our strength.
South Webster loses one senior graduation this offseason in Jacob Ruth. For McClintic, Ruth has been an exemplary leader for his young group of Jeeps.
“He’s been the backbone of our team,” McClintic said of Ruth. “He’s been a part of a lot of teams here, a lot of different guys coming in and out. Four year starter, third baseman his sophomore year on a district championship team. He means a lot to me and a lot to our program, so even if it is just one senior, it’s still going to be a big loss.”
Graduating just one senior does have its perks for the Jeeps, however. After the growth shown over the course of this season from underclassmen like Billy Jones, Riley Cook, Cam Carpenter, Brice Robnett, and Aiden Andrews, McClintic knows the future of South Webster baseball is bright if his guys put in their work during the offseason.
“Last year, we ended our season after the first round and the message was that we have to get better. That’s the same message this year. And if we do that, and make the same improvements we made this year, then we expect to be playing back up here and playing on night number two up here.”
As for Clay, the Panthers advance to Wednesday’s district final against the Racine Southern Tornados after Southern defeated Green 10-0 in five innings following Clay’s win over the Jeeps.
“The big thing is that we used our ace today,” Cottle spoke of his decision to use Dodds. “I haggled with it, but you don’t get to tomorrow without winning today. We’re going to watch this game, see what happens, and we’re going to have to have one or two of our pitchers really step up. Keep up our hitting, scoring some runs, hopefully we throw strikes and our defense comes around. We’re going to give it our all.”
First pitch between the Panthers and the Tornados is slated for approximately 7:30 p.m. at the VA Memorial Stadium in Chillicothe.
Reach Jacob Smith at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1930, by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @JacobSmithPDT © 2019 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved