CLOVER HILL - A battle of first place teams took place at Buck Bowman Park as the Clover Hill Bucks defeated the Grottoes Cardinals 7-3 on Saturday night.
The races in both divisions are tight as the season winds down, but Saturday’s win helped the Bucks pull away a bit in the West. Clover Hill has a two-game lead over second-place Bridgewater following the victory.
The Bucks started the scoring early in the contest against Grottoes, which has not been typical of this year’s Clover Hill team. The Bucks got two runs across in the bottom of the first inning to take a two-run lead before adding another in the third.
“We’re making an effort to get started a little quicker,” Clover Hill head coach Chris Cofer said about his team’s performance. “We’ve been a better second half team, so hopefully we can do things a little better in the front half and make things easier on ourselves.”
Grottoes made the game tight with one run in the fourth and two more in the eighth to make the score 4-3 in favor of Clover Hill. The Bucks pulled away again though, scoring three runs on a double by Luke Shifflett in the bottom of the eighth.
The Cardinals had a chance to keep the game going in the top of the ninth, but they left the bases loaded and Clover Hill took the win.
Starting pitcher Corey Armentrout threw 7.1 innings for the Bucks, giving up just two runs on four hits and striking out seven. He did not allow a baserunner through the first three innings.
“He looked good,” Cofer said. “He was extremely efficient early. With all the stuff that went on in the seventh inning and with a couple extra pitches, he was still under 100 pitches in the eighth.”
Cofer brought in Waring Garber in the eighth to get one out before bringing in Eric Yankey to close out the game. Cofer said Armentrout probably had a little more in the tank, but he liked the matchup with Garber coming in to face Jacob Merica.
Yankey tossed 1.1 innings, allowing just two hits and striking out two batters as he picked up his second save of the season.
With the Bucks now sitting at 17-4 and two games ahead in the West, Cofer feels confident in their ability to close out the season.
“We’re healthy, which, knock on wood, has been a great thing this year,” Cofer said. “Our depth has held up. We’re not having to do anything spectacular. We’re just playing good, solid baseball and hopefully that’ll carry us through.”
The Bucks are on the road tonight as they head to New Market for a matchup with the Shockers at 7:30.