OSCEOLA – A strong rally in the middle innings from Lenox wasn’t enough to take down Clarke on the road Wednesday night as the Tigers fell 7-6.
Clarke jumped out in the first inning on the Tigers’ starter Keegan Christensen. A lead off double from Jayden Giza, two walks and a fielder’s choice from Will Smith turned into one run for Clarke. Dalton Stubee singled to right field, adding two more runs.
Christensen was able to battle back with two strikeouts in the inning to keep the deficit at 3-0 going into the second inning.
He finished the game throwing five innings, allowing eight hits and seven runs while striking out five and walking two.
In the box the Tigers had struggled, entering Tuesday’s game with five hits. The Indians’ pitchers Zethann May, Trevor Boyce and Giza took advantage on the mound.
The trio combined for nine strikeouts while allowing four earned runs. May struck out two and allowed three runs and Boyce struck out four, allowing one run. Giza pitched two innings, striking out three and didn’t allow any earned runs.
Clarke put two more up in the second inning on doubles from Casey Kindred and Smith, giving the Indians a 5-0 lead after two innings.
With Clarke’s rotation throwing well, it wasn’t until the third inning when Jonathon Weaver recorded the first hit for the Tigers. Lenox’s offense started to see May better the second time through the lineup before stranding two runners in scoring position.
Again in the third, Clarke scratched another on a solo home run from Boyce to make things 6-0.
The Tigers’ offense started to produce in the fourth inning when Zach Schmitz led off the inning with a double. A walk and bunt single loaded the bases for Lenox before Christensen hit a hard ground ball to second.
Clarke’s shortstop, Casey Kindred, went to second for the force out, but didn’t see Cullen Wood rounding third, and the Tigers put two on the board.
Two walks loaded the bases again for Lenox with one out. A wild pitch scored a run to make the score 6-3. With runners advancing to second and third, a wild pitch scored another runner and moved Conner Fitzgerald to third base.“I would have love to stay with Zethann a little longer, but I just didn’t feel like we could do it,” Clarke head coach Lonnie Smith said. “Trevor came in cold, and we usually try to get him loose in between innings ... I just didn’t think we could get through (the fourth inning) with ‘Z.’”
With Clarke’s new pitcher Boyce on the mound, Fitzgerald took a large lead and stole home before Boyce made his move to the plate. Rushing the windup, the ball was late and Lenox put the game within one run at 6-5.
The Tigers had life entering the bottom of the fourth inning before a towering home run to left field from Kindred shifted the momentum back to the Indians as they took a 7-5 lead.
Lenox threatened again in the bottom of the fifth with the first three batters recording walks to load the bases with no outs. The rally didn’t last as Fitzgerald hit a line drive to short. Weaver was too far off the bag on the hit and was doubled up when Kindred touched second.
That was the end of the rally and last chance for the Tigers to score as they went down in order in the top of the seventh.
“They’re mentally tough, probably mentallly tougher than any time I’ve ever coached, and I love that about them,” Smith said. “But, they just have to get more experience in those situations. We battled through some tough spots tonight and came out ahead, that’s what matters.”
R H E
LN 000 501 0 — 5 4 2
CL 321 100 X — 2 2 1
LN: Keegan Christensen 5IP 5Ks 2BB, Colton Gordon 1IP 1K 0BB and Gordon. CL: Zethann May 3 1/3IP 2Ks 3BB, Trevor Boyce 1 2/3IP 4Ks 3BB, Jayden Giza 2IP 3Ks 1BB and Will Smith. W — Giza. L – Christensen. HR — CL: Boyce (1), Kindred (1). 3B — None. 2B —LN: Zach Schmitz (1). CL: Giza (1), Kindred (1), May (1), Smith (1), None. RBI — LN: Christensen (2). CR: Smith (3), Kindred (2), Stubbe (2), Boyce (1). Multiple hits — GL: CL: Smith (3), Kindred (2), Stubbe (2).