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By Leyton Pullin
On Friday July 2 the Montezuma Braves defeated the Clover Hill bucks 5-4 on a JT Stevenson walk off single in the 9th inning to remain atop the RCBL standings.
Lance Tate got the start for the Braves and came out rather shaky hitting and walking the first two batters he faced before retiring the side. He would have the same troubles in the 2nd inning loading the bases on two walks and a Ross French bunt single. Alex Knicely flew out for the first out of the inning but then Bryce Suters fought off a 3-2 count to draw a walk to score the first run of the game as Kevin kirk was forced in to make it 1-0 Clover Hill.
On the other side of the coin Steve Woerner got the start for the bucks and retired 9 of the first 11 hitters he faced in the first three innings. In the 4th inning that run would come to an end. Isiah Blanks led the inning off with a single. Kyle Armstrong walked and Jacob Critzer singled to load up the bases. Logan Jones struck out to make it two outs before Gavin Rush delivered a 2 RBI single to score Blanks and Armstrong. Wyatt Campbell followed with an RBI single of his own to score Critzer. Montezuma loaded the bases once more with a hit batsman before JT Stevenson walked to force across Rush to cap off a 4 run inning for the Braves and put them in front 4-1.
Clover Hill would slowly crawl back in the 5th as Tanner Montgomery delivered an RBI single to score John Siciliano on the new pitcher Hunter Clever and make it a 4-2 game.
The Bucks got another inch closer in the 6th as they loaded the bases before Cody Swisher hit a ground ball to Rush at second base for a ground out allowing Knicely to score and make it a 4-3 game.
The Bucks had another chance in the 7th with runners at first and second with one out in the inning. Clever would step off the rubber and pick off to second base leaving Knicely hung up in a run down. Blanks would get the pick off and throw to Critzer who then tagged Knicely out as he retreated towards the bag and in one motion Critzer also dove and tagged Ross French out as he tried to advance to second on the play in one of the wildest double plays on the RCBL season.
Clover Hill would finally capitalize in the 8th. Clever retired the first two batters of the inning via the punchout before his Bridgewater College teammate Jacob Grabeel singled. Montezuma made the change and went with another Eagle in the form of the power pitcher Keegan Oliver. Oliver squared off with another Bridgewater Eagle Kevin Navedo. On the 11th pitch of the at bat Navedo nailed an Oliver fastball right back up the middle for an RBI double to score Grabeel and tie the game at 4-4.
The Bucks had another opportunity in the top of the 9th, this time to take the lead. Siciliano lead the inning off with a walk and advanced to second base on a wild pitch. Kevin Kirk squared up and lead down a bunt down the first base line the next at bat. Oliver fielded it and made the throw to Clever at first base and as Clever caught the ball he and Kirk collided. Kirk was originally called safe on the play before further discussion between the umpiring crew that eventually ruled Kirk out. All of this allowed Siciliano to advance to third. Oliver then did what closer are supposed to do. The former Riverheads Gladiator struck out the next two hitters on elevated fastballs to get out of the inning.
In the bottom half of the 9th inning Eric Yankey would continue his dominant relief performance as he had retired 15 of the 16 batters he faced including the first two hitters in the 9th. Michael Robertson then grounded a ball to the first baseman French that got away from him allowing him to reach safely. Robertson showed off his speed advancing to second on a straight speed putting the winning run in scoring position for Stevenson. Stevenson stepped up and delivered with a single to right field allowing Robertson to score and walk it off for the Braves 5-4.
For Clover Hill they drop to 6-4 and to a tie with New Market for No. 5 in the RCBL Standings. The story for the Bucks was the fact they left 14 runners on base. Eric Yankey (0-2) gets the loss for the Bucks despite pitching 5.0 innings, striking out 9 and not allowing an earned run. The Bucks will be back in action on July 5 as they host the Broadway Bruins (6-4) at the Clover Dome at 7:30 PM.
For Montezuma they protect their top spot in the RCBL standings at 7-2. They now sit a full game up on second place Grottoes. Keegan Oliver (2-0) gets the win for the Braves after going 1.1 innings and only giving up one hit and one walk. The Braves will host Stuarts Draft (6-5) on Saturday June 3 at 7:30 PM.
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