Fleet-footed Justin Copeland went from first to home on a fielder’s choice and throwing error by Hanahan to give Clinton its first Baseball State Championship, by a 5-4 score, since 1961. Team members from that squad took the field in a pre-game appreciation, before the modern-day Red Devils equaled their accomplishment with a Tuesday evening home win.
For Hanahan, the Lower State Champion, it was a complete turn-around from Saturday’s mistake-filled home loss, 17-3, to the Red Devils, the 2023 Upper State Champions, finishing with a 26-3 record. Tuesday was Clinton Baseball’s 18th consecutive win.
Hanahan fought back from a 4-0 deficit to tie the game.
“I can’t even put it into words, these young men, all they did over the time that they have been here and their impact on the program. It kind of makes you well up with emotion, all the time they put in and all the benefits,” Clinton Baseball Head Coach Sean McCarthy said.
In the bottom of the 6th, Clinton manufactured a run with Caleb Taylor laying down a bunt with Copeland on first. Taylor was out in a close play at first, but by that time on-the-move Copeland was bearing down on third. When the throw was errant – something that plagued Hanahan along with fielding errors and hit-batsmen in the Saturday loss – Copeland sprinted home and Clinton had its late-game lead.
But that wasn’t the end. That made the game 5-4 in the bottom of the sixth. Hanahan successfully stalled the game at that point, breaking Clinton’s momentum, and the Red Devils were retired. Carson Glenn, pitching in relief of Wil Stewart, stayed on the mound, and as Hanahan again slowed down play with discussions with the umpires, the left-hander turned and faced the Hawks’ bench, patiently waiting as the coaches and officials tried to sort things out.
When they finally started play again, Glenn got an important strikeout and coaxed a game-ending ground ball to second. Both teams accepted their individual medals and team trophies, as Hanahan left and the Clinton party raged on. If Hanahan had won, there would have been a third and deciding game Saturday at a neutral site, and the Hawks’ ace, Nick Cappello, would have been able to pitch; he had used up his pitch count in Friday’s do-or-die win over Brookland-Cayce, to clinch the Lower State title, and under the rules had to rest for five days. Cappello was the designated hitter against Clinton.
At first it looked like Clinton was on a continuation of Saturday’s 17-run explosion. Wilson Wages hit a 2-run double and Luke Young and Brett Young accounted for RBIs. The Hawks’ pitchers settled and the offense clawed back the 4 runs, leaving the game tied to start the deciding, one-run-scored 6th inning.
Glenn pitched out of a jam in the 5th as Hanahan got runners at second and third with one out – a ground out and an infield fly out stifled the threat. Hanahan’s 6th inning ended with a runner getting picked off and tagged out in a rundown.
Then came Copeland’s base running in the bottom of the sixth and Glenn’s escape in the top of the seventh, and Clinton had clinched the championship. McCarthy got a cold-water bath on a 64 degree night, and Red Devils scattered all over the outfield with head-first slides – Voice of the Red Devils Buddy Bridges dedicated “Dancin’ in the Moonlight” to Coach McCarthy from the announcing booth, and the music that raged on included MC Hammer’s “Can’t Touch This.”
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