By Nick Stevens CLOVER HILL- A late surge in the ninth inning by the Grottoes Cardinals fell just short as former James Madison University pitcher Eric Yankey shut the door on a 4-1 Clover Hill victory on Opening Night at Buck Bowman Park.
Clover Hill RHP Kevin Chandler took the mound as the Opening Night starter, pitching three shutout innings and striking out four. After recording three ground ball outs in the first inning, Chandler opened the second inning by allowing back-to-back singles. The RCBL veteran responded by striking out the next three Cardinals’ hitters.
“He hit some locations in big counts for us. For his first outing he produced really well for us,” said Clover Hill Head Coach Chris Cofer after the game. He’s fully recovered from Tommy John, and is sure to be an integral piece to another run at an RCBL title.
Chandler worked with an early lead thanks to a Luke Shifflett RBI-double and a Danny Grogg RBI-fielder's’ choice in the top of the first. The Bucks would not surrender the lead for the rest of the night.
In the fourth inning, Josh Eberly reached on an error, and would later score on a wild pitch to put the Bucks up 3-1. The final run of the night came in the bottom of the eighth on a Drew Easter RBI-single, scoring Tanner Kirk.
Clover Hill drew eight walks on the night, showing a level of patience at the plate that you normally don’t see early in the season. The top three hitters in the order (Ross French, Drew Easter, Cody Swisher) drew a combined five.
Tyler Conley, Jordan Showalter, Jesse Showalter, and Eric Yankey combined for six innings of relief, surrendering four hits and one run while striking out eight.
Moving forward, coach Cofer said he wants his guys to just play fundamental baseball. There didn’t appear to be a lot of Opening Night jitters on the field, a sign that his team is following that mantra closely.
For Grottoes, Dustin Garst pitched three shutout innings in relief of Tyler Lam without allowing a single hit. His ability to command the lower half of the zone and mix his pitches produced a lot of weak contact and ground ball outs. Zach Thomas and David Wood paced the offense with two-hits a piece. The lone Grottoes run was scored by Thomas on a Keeston Raynes single.