ROSEMOUNT — Sometimes, it IS about how you start — AND finish.
The Clay Panthers roared out for four first-inning runs, then combined for their final three points over the final two stanzas — en route to capturing a 7-2 victory over visiting Minford on Monday in a Scioto County high school league baseball game.
Following the cancellation of the Ohio High School Athletic Association spring season, the Panthers — along with Minford, Valley, Notre Dame and South Webster from Scioto County — joined Coal Grove from Ohio and Raceland and Greenup County from Kentucky in forming an independent league.
The Panthers are now 2-1 with two consecutive triumphs, as they shut out Valley 4-0 on the Indians’ Reservation last Thursday.
Minford was playing its second game in three days, having defeated South Webster 4-3 in an added contest to the schedule on Saturday.
For the Panthers, six of their first seven batters reached base — with Evan Woods, Jaden Jessee, Shaden Malone and Caleb McNutt all singling while Clay Cottle and Reece Whitley both walked.
Jessee drove in Woods and Cottle before McNutt knocked in Malone and Whitley for the 4-0 early advantage.
The Falcons then retired 10 of the next 12 Panther batters, as Woods doubled in the second stanza — before Carson Porginski singled but was caught stealing second in the fourth.
Clay came back, though, with two more markers — on two outs — in the fifth.
With the Panthers leading 4-1, Jessee reached on an error and Malone walked while Whitley and Dakota Dodds delivered back-to-back singles —as Dodds drove in Jessee and Malone for two unearned runs.
In the sixth, Clay capped off the scoring when Porginski walked, stole second, and scored following a pair of wild pitches —combining Cottle being hit by a pitch and Jessee walking.
Three Panther pitchers combined for the five-run win, as McNutt started, worked the opening three frames and picked up the official ‘W’, while Malone went the next three and one-third with five strikeouts.
Facing a 7-2 deficit, the Falcons did manage to walk the bases loaded in the seventh, but Cottle charged back after taking over with one out —as he struck out two Falcons after allowing two of those walks.
McNutt gave up three hits in his three innings of action and an earned run in the third, but his single strikeout was an important out in Minford’s opening at-bat.
With two outs, McNutt hit Falcon standout Elijah Vogelsong-Lewis with a pitch, as he then raced around to third on a pair of stolen bases.
But McNutt came back with a strikeout to strand Vogelsong-Lewis, who scored the Falcons’ other run —an unearned point following his sixth-inning double.
Rowe singled twice for the Falcons and scored their first run, as Book in the second and Nathan McCormick in the third accounted for Minford’s only other hits.
Clay returns to action on Thursday at South Webster.
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