By Eric Ingles Democrat Sports Reporter
May 2, 2014
CLINTON — For the second time in as many days, the Smith-Cotton baseball team scored in the late innings to pull out a West Central Conference win on the road, beating Clinton 9-7 on Friday.
On Thursday it was a seventh inning rally to beat Warrensburg. On Friday, S-C broke a 7-all tie with two runs in the sixth. Nick Hagedorn led off the inning with a single, and Dom Zerilli followed with a walk. With a 3-2 count to the next batter, Cody Kozak, both Zerilli and courtesy runner Baxter Mays took off. The throw to third to get Mays sailed into left field, allowing Mays to score what proved to be the winning run. Zerilli came home on a fly ball moments later.
Those runs came after Smith-Cotton saw the Cardinals come back from a 6-2 deficit to tie the game. After Smith-Cotton jumped ahead with a run in the fifth, Clinton tied it again.
“We were a little disappointed and frustrated, but we rallied back,” said Tigers center fielder Chance McMullin. “We came through and won. It was good work.”
Smith-Cotton scored five runs in the second thanks in part to a series of Cardinals errors. Leadoff hitter Dakota Brown popped up on the infield, but no Clinton players could get a glove on the ball before it fell to the ground. A Dalton Zaremba single drove in Brown and a Gavin Jones bloop double scored Taylor Schubert. Zaremba scored on an infield single by McMullin. With two outs and the bases loaded, Zerilli hit a sharp grounder to short, which couldn’t be handled, bringing home Jones. McMullin scored moments later on a wild pitch.
“We weren’t swinging at bad pitches,” said Smith-Cotton coach Jud Kindle.
Helping the Clinton rally in the third and fourth innings were several Smith-Cotton miscues. With runners on the corners and one out in the bottom of the third, an error brought home Ian McWilliams to cut the S-C lead to 6-3. Connor Ford scored moments later on an error with two outs.
In the fourth inning, the first two batters reached before Brian McCoy bunted back to Tiger relief pitcher Austin Bullerd. Bullerd’s throw to first was offline, allowing two runs to score and putting the go-ahead run, McCoy, on third with no outs.
“Both teams were playing through issues,” Kindle said. “This field’s pretty rough. When you have a rough surface like this, it’s pretty dry, it takes some bad hops. We’ve got to take a more offensive approach. We’ve got to hit more line drives and ground balls.”
But Bullerd buckled down after the error. McWilliams grounded out to Brown, who checked McCoy to make sure he couldn’t score on the play. Bullerd then struck out the next two batters.
“Bullerd came in and shut them down when they were hot in every inning,” Kindle said. “That’s two nights in a row where he’s shut down conference opponents in big situations.”
Bullerd allowed a run in the fifth as Clinton’s Gehrig Taylor singled and scored on a Dillon Richardson single. Smith-Cotton limited the Cardinals to one run in the inning, as Hagedorn threw out on runner attempting to steal and Bullerd induced a grounder to strand two runners.
In the sixth, Clinton got a two-out single but nothing else as the next hitter flew out to left. After an error put the leadoff hitter on first in the seventh, Bullerd struck out the next batter and got the next two to fl out.
Smith-Cotton jumped ahead early with a run in the first. McMullin opened the game with a double and scored on a Hagedorn single.
“That’s my job is to get on base,” McMullin said. “If I see a good pitch to hit, I can try and drive it opposite field and get on base.”
McMullin went 3 for 5 at the plate and scored two runs. He also singled home Zaremba in the fifth, which put the Tigers back in the lead 7-6.
“Chance is our leader both on and off the field,” Kindle said. “He’s a gamer, so in a game situation, he always plays up to what we expect.”
Smith-Cotton will host O’Hara in a doubleheader at 5 p.m. Wednesday at Liberty Park.