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By Dean Barker
After squandering a six run lead in the bottom of the sixth, the second place Clover Hill Bucks scored five unanswered runs to beat the third place Montezuma Braves 15-11 on Wednesday, July 21. The win was the fifth straight win for Clover Hill, who improved to 12-6 and is just 1.5 games out of first. The loss dropped Montezuma to 11-8 and into fourth place.
Jackson Sherman got the win to move to 2-0, giving up one unearned run and striking out three in two innings. Jacob Dunford took the loss to fall 0-2, giving up three runs in two thirds of an inning.
The Braves opened the game with an RBI grounder from Hunter Clever, and RBI single from PJ Hanisak, and an RBI single from Grant Thomas. The Braves would strand two.
Ross French would drive in Cole Jenkins on a sacrifice fly in the top of the second, and Josh Eberly and Kevin Kirk would double steal in the third to make the score 3-2 Braves.
Bryce Suters would score on a wild throw from the catcher Wyatt Campbell to tie it up in the fourth. French would bring in one more with a sacrifice fly, and Eberly plated one with and RBI double to make it 5-3 Bucks.
With the bases loaded in the top of the fifth, Cole Jenkins would drive in one with a sacrifice groundout. Alex Knicely would ground into a fielder's choice that brought home one run. With the bases loaded and two outs, Eberly and Navedo walked to bring in two runs to make the lead 9-3. In the bottom half, Keegan Oliver would score on a throwing error from Jenkins on a Clever grounder to cut the lead to 9-4.
Knicely drove in Suters with an RBI single in the top of the sixth to push the lead back to six at 10-4. In the bottom half, with the bases loaded, Thomas would drive in Owen Marshall and Gavin Rush with a double to right field. Oliver would drive in Thomas with an RBI single. Isiah Blanks followed up with an RBI single to drive in Wyatt Campbell and Oliver. Then, Kyle Armstrong and Blanks would both score on wild pitches to complete the wild comeback and put the Braves up 11-10.
The lead, however, was short lived, as Blake Sipe would drive in Kirk with an RBI single to tie the game at 11 in the top of the seventh. Thomas would reach third in the bottom half, but was unable to score.
Sipe and John Siciliano would each hit two run singles in the top of the eighth to give the Bucks a 15-11 lead, and the Braves went down 1-2-3 in the bottom half. The game was called at the point, due to time constraints.
Even after blowing a huge lead, Bucks head coach Kevin Chandler said he still had confidence his team would get the job done.
"At the end of the inning, we're only down one...it's just like 1-0," Chandler said. "In our minds, it's 'alright, go get another run.' Which we did, and the came back and scored four in the eighth."
The Bucks stranded twelve base runners, and had three errors, leading to three unearned runs. Montezuma left five on had two errors which did not lead to any unearned runs.
Sipe went 3-6 with two RBIs and two runs scored. Knicely went 1-3 with two RBIs and three runs scored. French with 0-1 with two RBIs on two sacrifice flies. Jenkins was 2-4 with one RBI and three runs scored. Eberly went 2-4 with and RBI and two runs scored. The Bucks had a total of 14 hits on the evening.
Thomas went 4-4 with two RBIs and one run scored. Blanks went 2-5 with two RBIs and a run scored. Oliver went 2-4 with an RBI and two runs scored. Armstrong went 2-4 with a run scored. The Braves had fourteen total hits. Besides Oliver and Armstrong, every single Braves batter scored one run.
Chandler said he was proud of his team's performance.
"It was big, but, you know, these guys are resilient, and they're gonna fight 'til the end," Chandler said. "So I have all the confidence in them, and never a doubt."
The Bucks have clinched at least the #4 seed in the upcoming RCBL Playoffs, and could still earn the top spot with three winds and two New Market losses. Tonight at 7:30 pm, they will travel to the Diamond Club to take on the third place Stuarts Draft Diamondbacks. The Braves will host the Bridgewater Reds tomorrow, July 23, at 7:30 pm.
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