AID — Simply put, the Clay Panthers finished what they started.
Taking two days to complete, and even extra innings, the Panthers put away the 2021 Southern Ohio Conference Division I baseball championship on Thursday —winning at Symmes Valley 5-4 in 11 innings in the completion of a suspended game from April 26.
In that tilt 10 days ago, the Panthers put up four runs in the top of the sixth stanza —and took that 4-0 lead into the bottom of the seventh inning.
But that’s when the Vikings vanquished that advantage and forged the 4-4 tie, forcing an eighth inning and into the ninth when play was suspended due to darkness.
Finally, on Thursday, the game resumed — and Clay came up with the go-ahead, and eventual game-winning, run in the top of the 11th.
Shaden Malone singled to lead off against Viking pitcher Brayden Webb, Clay Cottle and Jaden Jessee walked, and Evan Woods drove in Malone with a sacrifice fly.
Then, with the Panthers’ ace Cottle back on the mound, the Vikings threatened with a Tanner McComas single and a sacrifice bunt which advanced him to second.
But Cottle induced Levi Best to hit a screaming line drive which was caught in the outfield, as the Panther standout senior struck out the final Viking to end the game —and clinch Clay’s first outright SOC I championship since 2003.
For Clay’s father and head coach, Marc Cottle, it is the first outright league championship of his coaching career.
The Panthers split the SOC I title with Green two years ago —the last OHSAA baseball campaign prior to this spring.
“This was one of the best high school games that I’ve been a part of. Symmes Valley is a well-coached and very good team, and we were fortunate to get the victory,” said Coach Cottle. “I can’t tell you how proud I am of this team. Very few people predicted at the beginning of the season that we would be at the top of the league. Our kids worked really hard, believed in themselves, and they are now SOC champions.”
With the win, and locking up the division championship, the Panthers pushed their record to 14-6 —and remain perfect at 11-0 in the SOC I.
Clay can wrap up an undefeated league gauntlet next Thursday, as the Panthers play at Ironton St. Joseph in a makeup matchup.
The Vikings, which lost to Clay 11-6 in the two teams’ initial meeting in Rosemount, are now 9-3 in the league —and 14-3 overall.
For Clay Cottle, he ended up over the two days pitching eight and one-thirds innings for the win, striking out 15 Vikings in overcoming 11 walks —including five intentional times to ace pitcher and cleanup hitter Brayden Webb.
He allowed three earned runs on three hits, and started and returned in the seventh inning in relief of Malone —who relieved Cottle in the fourth and gave up an earned run on one hit and four walks with six strikeouts.
With the game getting suspended, and thus with him able to return on Thursday, Cottle racked up 154 total pitches thrown —including 96 for strikes.
Symmes Valley’s Devin Renfroe battled Cottle and Malone until the sixth, when Webb replaced Renfroe —and gave up three earned runs on four hits with four walks including two intentional.
The Vikings threw four total hurlers, highlighted by Renfroe and Webb, who combined to toss nine total innings with nine total walks and five strikeouts apiece.
The Panthers outhit the Vikings 10-4 and drew 10 total walks, as Cottle and Carson Porginski posted three hits apiece.
Malone, Jessee, Woods and Mitchell King chipped in singles apiece for the Panthers, as Drew Zuefle was hit by a pitch.
In the sixth, Cottle doubled and crossed on Jessee’s single, as Jessee then stole second and scored on Woods’ RBI-basehit.
Porginski then singled and both runners moved up on an error — as Woods and Porginski then scored on another Viking error for the 4-0 lead.
But the Vikings finally got to Malone first and Clay second in the seventh, as Best reached on an error, Levi Niece was hit by a pitch — and Webb, A.J. Littreal, Renfroe and McComas all walked to score three runs.
A fielder’s choice then brought in the tying run, and the Vikings still had the bases loaded, but Cottle escaped the jam with no additional damage done.
The Vikings’ only four hits were singles by Best, Caden Brammer, McComas and Webb.
* * *
Portsmouth Clay 000 004 000 01 —5 10 3
Symmes Valley 000 000 400 00 —4 4 2
CHS: Clay Cottle 8 1/3IP, 3R, 3ER, 3H, 2HB, 11BB, 15K; Shaden Malone 2 2/3IP, 1R, 1ER, 1H, 0HB, 4BB, 6K
SVHS: Brayden Webb 3 2/3IP, 3R, 3ER, 4H, 0HB, 4BB, 2IBB, 5K: Devin Renfroe 5 1/3IP, 0R, 0ER, 2H, 0HB, 5BB, 5K; Caden Brammer 1/3IP, 2R, 0ER, 2H, 0HB, 0BB, 1K; A.J. Littreal 1 2/3IP, 0R, 0ER, 0H, 0HB, 1BB, 3K
W —Clay Cottle; L —Brayden Webb
© 2021 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved