Zane McLendon’s grand slam and Zach Fortman’s solo shot as the next batter up blew open Clinton’s game Friday night against the Hanahan Hawks and put the Red Devils in a position this Tuesday night to win their first Baseball State Championship since 1961.
Clinton won 17-3 over the home-standing Hawks.
Leading 9-3 going into the 5th, the Red Devils could smell blood in the water in the form of the mercy rule – a 10-run lead after 5 innings are played means the game is over. Clinton put up a snowman, in the words of Voice of the Red Devils Buddy Bridges, as they tallied 8 in the top of the 5th. Caleb Taylor, who also hurt the Hawks with his bat, gutted out the win on the mound, ending it by enticing a double play ball from overwhelmed Hanahan.
The Hawks were forced into a do or die situation just the night before by Brookland-Cayce, because of rain delays. Meanwhile, Clinton breezed undefeated through its Upper State bracket, as its bats consistently pounded opponents.
Carson Glenn got Clinton off to a good start on the mound – although both teams showed nerves in the early innings – before giving way to Taylor, who way back in the 1st inning cleared the loaded bases with a 2-out double and staked Clinton to a 3-0 lead – a lead it would never relinquish. Wil Stewart’s 2-out single scored 2 for Clinton and Justin Copeland added a RBI pushing Clinton’s lead to 6-1.
Wilson Wages (hitting .452 on the season) smashed a 2-run home run boosting Clinton to 8-3 in the 4th. Harrison Moore added a sac fly scoring Copeland. Then Clinton left the bases loaded as it posted its 9-3 lead, before the dramatic 5th inning.
Wages started the Clinton 5th with a double and later scored on an errant throw. Clinton loaded the bases with 2 outs while Hawks’ pitchers couldn’t find the plate. Clinton already had sent 9 batters to the plate in the 5th when McLendon launched his rocket, which probably landed somewhere around Folly Beach, with the sacks jammed with Red Devils, the shell-shocked Hawks then surrendered Fortman’s smash on the next at-bat.
Hanahan had the heart of its batting order coming up, needing at least 5 runs to close the gap to 17-8 and avoid the 10-runs-ahead-after-five mercy rule. Caleb Taylor came back out to close it, took a visit to the mound, and then trusted his defense to get the game-ending double play.
One game away from winning the Class AAA State Championship, Clinton stands at 25-3. Hanahan falls to 26-8 on the season, with its must-win-to-stay-alive game upcoming in Clinton. The good news for Hanahan – they get 2 ½ days’ rest after playing back-to-back. The bad news, their ace can’t pitch and they have to find some way to keep Clinton on the bases. Wil Stewart is the likely starter for Clinton in Tuesday’s 7 p.m. game (times will be announced) – admission at The Complex will be $10, on-line or at-the-gate ticket sales.
A Game 3, if necessary, will be at a neutral site next Saturday.
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