As has been their trademark in recent years, the Clear Springs Chargers plan to hang their hats this season on pitching and defense, but one wouldn’t think that after watching their district opener, as the offense exploded to win a shootout, 10-6, over the Clear Creek Wildcats at home Tuesday night.
“Maybe it’s a good omen that we scored some runs; really, pitching and defense should be our deal,” Clear Springs head coach Chris Floyd said. “Pitching is going to bail us out, hopefully, a lot more than our hitting bails us out.”
The Chargers escalated the game quickly with a five-run bottom of the first inning. Designated hitter Mason Schulz lined a two-run single into right field to score center fielder Michael Gillaspia (leadoff single) and shortstop Michael Cervantes (no-out hit by pitch) before first baseman Trey Luper crushed a three-run home run to straightaway center field for a 5-0 lead.
“We had a couple clutch at-bats there, and Trey’s home run, obviously, put us in a good spot starting out,” Floyd said.
Third baseman Ty Luper’s sacrifice fly to center field scoring Gillaspia (leadoff walk) pushed Clear Springs’ lead to 6-0 in the bottom of the second.
Just when it looked like Clear Creek was on the ropes, the Wildcats put a crooked number on the scoreboard in the top of the third. A leadoff single hit up the middle by second baseman Liam Gunter was followed by two fielding errors to load the bases with no outs.
A pair of RBI sac flies to center by center fielder Garrett Poston and first baseman Daniel Burroway cut Clear Springs’ lead to 6-2, and then back-to-back two-out RBI singles from right fielder Logan Spuler and catcher Jacob Madden made the score 6-4.
The Chargers logged two-run innings in the bottom of the fourth and fifth to balloon their lead to 10-4. Catcher Dylan Byrd and Mason Schulz each had RBI sac flies in the fourth, and Cervantes’ RBI groundout and second baseman Riley Schulz’s RBI single accounted for the runs in the fifth.
“We walked a few too many guys, got in bad counts, putting those guys in really good counts to hit — 3-1, 2-1,” Clear Creek head coach Brent Kunefke said. “There at the end, we got in good counts.”
The Wildcats continued to battle to the end, scoring two runs in the top of the seventh on an RBI double smoked down the line by designated hitter Alec Lamar and a bases-loaded walk drawn by pinch hitter Thomas Pierce.
Clear Creek twice brought the tying run into the batter’s box with the bases loaded and one out, but pitcher Michael May, who came on in relief of reliever Brady Miller, managed to induce a fly out to shallow center field and brought the heat on a swinging strikeout to slam the door on the Wildcats’ rally.
“You don’t want to put yourself in that kind of predicament, (but) our non-district schedule was pretty tough so we’d be ready for these situations,” Floyd said. “We had that same scenario throughout non-district play.”
These teams will close out their District 24-6A season series 7 p.m. Friday at Clear Creek.