KEYSTONE HEIGHTS - The regular season wrap-up tradition continued with a barn burner as the Clay Blue Devils traveled to Keystone Heights to take on the Indians. It seemed to be all Blue Devils as …
KEYSTONE HEIGHTS - The regular season wrap-up tradition continued with a barn burner as the Clay Blue Devils traveled to Keystone Heights to take on the Indians. It seemed to be all Blue Devils as Clay had a brick-by-brick attack going into the middle of the fifth inning as they built a small, but steady 3-0 lead over the host Indians. As everyone in the area knows, never turn your back on the Keystone Kids. With any opportunity, the Indians will get themselves right back into the fight.
“I could be up 10-0 and I’m still sweating until I get that final out,” said Clay Blue Devil Head Coach Josh Persinger. “I don’t like to get too comfortable because that’s when it comes back and bites you. These two teams have always battled. For the last twenty years, even when I was in high school in 2003, it’s always been a rival and we want to beat the heck out of each other on the field. This is always a friendly rivalry, always a good game.”
After pulling within one run 3-2 in the sixth inning, the top of the seventh saw the Blue Devil’s Alec Burke sail one out of the park in left field for an RBI homer to go ahead 5-2. With one more at bat, the Indians knew what it would take. An Alex Addington walk, followed by a Noah Branch single from a bunt had two of the three needed runs on the bases. After two strikeouts, it came down to Dalton Hollingsworth’s heavy stick. Could he even the score? Off a full count, Hollingsworth walked putting all the needed runs to tie on base and Chase Packham in the batter’s box. After a first strike pitch, a ball, and a couple of Godzilla sized hacks with all he had, Packham went down swinging as the Blue Devils held their breath long enough to hold onto a 5-2 end of the regular season victory. “We got a chance. We got a guy that can swing it, I think we get a chance,” said Indians Head Coach Alan Mattox. “A tight game all the way through. A couple breaks go our way and things are different. A really good ballgame against a really good ball team.”
Clay got out of the blocks quick, taking advantage of hit by a pitch and a walk with one out to load the bases in the top of the first with an Logan Wilson grounder. Jayden Long took the sacrifice chop to go to deep center field to score Josh Rouw. The inning was shut down by the Indian defense to keep the score at 1-0. In the top of the third inning, Clay took it to 2-0 when Wilson notched an RBI double to left field, scoring Rouw again. Clay added a third brick to the wall in the top of the fifth, this time with Rouw grounded out to second base which allowed Alec Burke to get behind the play to score, 3-0. The Indians defense finished the job and needed the bats to wake up quick.
In the bottom of the fifth, with Alex Addington on base, Ashton Roach tagged a line drive RBI single to right field to put Keystone Heights right back into the game, 3-1. After holding the line on the Blue Devils in the top of the sixth, Conner Guy tripled on a line drive to right field, and then took advantage of a passed ball on a 2-2 count to score, 3-2 in the bottom of the sixth inning.
In the top of the seventh, with a walk and a strikeout, Alec Burke came up to the plate. With a full count, Burke found the pitch he was looking for and tattooed it long out of left field to get a couple insurance runs in at 5-2.
Persinger looked forward to the post season after not making it out of the districts last season. “Even with the rankings, you have to win. I think this team realizes that. As much success as we’ve had, we haven’t had a district championship since 2015. Now we’ve been runner up, we’ve went to the states and such, but that is one of the goals we reset. Let’s bring home the hardware early. Let’s set the precedent of a district champ because you’re guaranteed in. If you don’t win, it’s up to rankings. Just win. It doesn’t matter our rankings if we just win.”
Even with the loss, Mattox likes what he saw to finish his regular season. “Sets me up for the post season very well. We saw a great arm on the hill tonight. I’m pleased with the way they are playing and I was very pleased with their attitude, which is huge for us, and I’m looking forward to the post season.”
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