PORTSMOUTH — The Clay Panthers baseball team has a chance to continue a program-record streak with a win on Tuesday.
Following their 9-4 win over South Gallia in Saturday’s Division IV sectional semifinal, the No. 13-seed Panthers earned the right to advance to the sectional final in the Chillicothe #2 district tournament — where they’re face No. 4-seed Fairfield.
With a sectional title last spring, the Panthers extended their program-best mark of advancing to the district tournament for the fourth consecutive season.
Saturday’s five-run win over the No. 20-seed visiting Rebels was the first step in lengthening their district appearance streak.
“They’ve matured, done a good job growing overall. This week alone we’ve played a couple of Division III teams, the No. 1 team in D-IV in Valley — we’ve challenged ourselves,” Clay coach Kylon Crabtree said. “Really proud of the effort collectively this season.”
South Gallia took an early 2-0 lead in the top of the first on RBI hits by Oram and Davis — as the first four Rebel batters of the game reached base.
Those would be the final earned runs that Clay pitching would allow in the game, however.
Clay tied in the game in the bottom of the second on a pair of two-out singles by sophomores Carson Holschuh and Brandon Malone.
Senior Carson Porginski exited the game after four innings pitched, allowing four hits, two earned runs, issuing two walks and striking out nine Rebel batters.
Sophomore Evan Balestra entered in the fifth in a relief appearance and earned the win — as Clay would score seven of its’ nine runs in the fifth and sixth innings.
Balestra allowed three hits, no earned runs, issued a walk, and struck out four on 56 pitches.
“They did a great job. They were around the plate in throwing strikes — our Achilles heel has been the fielding behind them. Carson gave us four good innings to where he’s capable of going Tuesday for us, same with Evan Balestra,” Crabtree said, of his pitching. “They’ve been our top two guys all season for us.”
Five different Panthers batters had an RBI in the win — and eight of the Panthers’ nine batters reached via hit. Porginski tallied a team-high three hits, while junior Drew Zuefle, Balestra, and Horschuh each had a pair of hits.
“We got a lot of guys on, but the execution when we got guys on was where we lacked. We were able to get guys across in the sixth and put up five runs. Everyone in the lineup did a good job of getting on base — have to commend Carson Holschuh for getting on in his first three at-bats when the top was struggling early,” Crabtree said.
The Panthers will travel to Leesburg on Tuesday, May 17 for their chance at a program-record fifth straight sectional title versus No. 4-seed Fairfield.
“It’s going to take a clean overall game,” Crabtree said, of the sectional title opportunity. “We’ve got to have great pitching, can’t walk guys. Fielding has to be clean, have to have a game where we’re making the routine plays. And execution with runners on base is going to be key for us.”
South Gallia 2 0 0 0 0 1 1 — 4 7 4
Clay 0 2 0 0 2 5 X — 9 13 7
Carson Porginski 3-4
Malachi Loper 1-4, R
Evan Balestra 2-4, 2R, RBI
Mitchell King 1-2, 2R, BB
Gaige Shorter 0-3, R, RBI
Drew Zuefle 2-4, R, RBI
Isaiah Whitt 1-2, R
Carson Holschuh 2-4, R, RBI
Brandon Malone 1-2, RBI
Carson Porginski (C) 4IP, 4H, 2ER, 9K, 2BB
Evan Balestra (C) 3IP, 3H, 0ER, 5K, 1BB (W)
Reach Jacob Smith at (740) 370-0713 ext. 1930, by email at [email protected], or on Twitter @JacobSmithPDT © 2022 Portsmouth Daily Times, all rights reserved