STRATTANVILLE — Over the past several seasons, the Clarion-Limestone and North Clarion baseball teams have met each other in the District 9 playoffs with the Wolves getting the better of the Lions in most instances.
However, Tuesday afternoon it would be the Lions who came out on top by scoring nine of their 11 runs in the fifth and sixth innings to come away with an 11-4 victory at the C-L Sports Complex.
That put the No. 3 Lions (12-4) into Thursday’s semifinal round against No. 2 seed Otto-Eldred, which escaped Coudersport’s upset bid as well on Tuesday with a 5-4 win.
On the other side of the bracket, Clarion was blanked by Elk County Catholic 2-9 in eight innings, setting up ECC’s semifinal matchup with top-seeded DuBois Central Catholic.
Next week’s championship game is Tuesday at a site and time to be announced. Since the top two teams advance to states opening on June 3, Thursday’s winners get two more postseason games.
The Lions trailed 3-2 through four innings before scoring three runs in the fifth to take a 5-3 lead. They then exploded for six in the bottom of the sixth to take an 11-3 lead.
“We just stuck with things,” said C-L head coach Todd Smith. “It’s what we’ve done all season. They never give up and cheer each other on and they stick together. North Clarion has knocked us off the last few years. We’re heading back to the District semifinals so it’s a credit to our kids for their hard work.”
North Clarion (10-7) got a two-out single from Logan Minich in the top of the first, but a strikeout ended the inning.
In the bottom of the inning Colby Himes hit a one out single for C-L. After a walk and a flyout, Ian Larson hit a groundball to the second baseman, but the ball deflected off his glove into shallow right field with allowed both Himes and Hayden Callen to score for a 2-0 lead.
The score remained 2-0 until the top of the third when Korey Mills and Sam Minich each hit singles to lead off the inning. Logan Minich then hit a two-run double scoring both Mills and Sam Minich to tie the game at 2-2.
Minich reached third on a balk. After a popout, Zyler Hargenrader reached base on an error and Minich scored on the play for a 3-2 Wolves lead. Jacob Bauer then walked. Bauer got a big lead at first and Ben Smith, the Lions’ first baseman sneaked in behind as Hayden Callen threw to first with Bauer breaking for second. Hargenrader broke for third and he was tagged out. The relay back to first got Bauer into a rundown and he was also tagged out for a big inning-ending double play leaving the score 3-2 Wolves.
“Those double plays we turned were huge,” said Smith. “Especially the one where we went with the pickoff move. Heyden was struggling a bit as they got a couple runs in that inning. So it was really big for us to get out of that inning without them scoring more runs.”
The score remained 3-2 until the Lions scored three times in the bottom of the fifth. After one out, Bryson Huwar and Colby Himes each hit a single. Callen reached on a fielder’s choice when the Wolves retired Huwar at third on a force play. Ben Smith then laced a double to center field to score Himes and Callen for a 4-3 C-L lead. Ian Larson singled in Smith for a 5-3 lead.
“Ben has been putting the bat on the ball better lately,” said Smith. “He really struggled early in the season. That was a huge hit for us. We actually bumped him up to fourth from sixth in the order so that really paid off for us.”
North Clarion put runners on base in every inning leaving a runner at third in the fourth and fifth innings. In the sixth Isaac Gilara singled to lead off the inning. Bryce Byers hit a ball to Smith at first where he touched first and then threw to Huwar at second who applied the tag on Gilara for a double play. Preston Schmader then singled. Mills hit a ball down the line in right field that David Wiles couldn’t quite track down as the ball glanced off his glove putting runners at second and third. Schmader was then cut down at the plate when catcher Drew Beichner threw a strike to Callen who applied the tag after a wild pitch to end the inning keeping the score 5-3.
The big sixth inning started when Brady Fowkes reached on a dropped third strike. David Wiles then singled to shallow right and Fowkes moved to third. Beichner laid down a bunt and Fowkes beat the throw home for a run. Huwar then hit an RBI single, Smith drove in a run with an RBI ground out and Larson added an RBI single. When the dust had settled and the inning concluded, the Lions had plated six runs in taking an 11-3 lead.
Huwar got two quick outs in the seventh before issuing a walk to Tyler Wolbert. Hargenrader then hit a run scoring double for the Wolves fourth run. Huwar then induced a soft line drive to Cam Hankey at second base to end the game allowing the Lions to move on.
Larson led the Lions with three hits and four RBIs. Huwar and Callen each added two hits. Colby Himes and Ben Smith each added one hit. Smith drove in three runs. Callen drove in two while Huwar and Beichner each added one RBI.
Callen picked up the mound win, tossing five innings allowing three runs, two earned on 12 hits. He walked two and struck out five. Huwar allowed one run on one hit in one inning. He walked one and stuck out one.
Logan Minich suffered the loss allowing nine runs, six earned in five innings. He walked three and struck out five.
In last week’s regular-season finale:
WEDNESDAY, May 15
A-C Valley 6,
At Emlenton despite drawing 10 walks plus two hit batters, the Lions could only muster three hits in dropping a 6-3 decision to A-C Valley.
Luke Whitcomb, Broc Weigle and Riley Bauer combined on the three-hitter with Weigle picking up the victory, allowing no runs on one hit with four walks and seven strikeouts over 4 1/3 innings. Whitcomb started and worked one inning with three walks and one strikeout. Bauer allowed three runs on two hits in 1 2/3 innings. He walked three batters.
Six different players collected one hit each, all of them singles, for the Falcons.
Bryson Huwar, Cam Hankey and Brady Fowkes collected the three C-L hits. Huwar hit a double.
Hayden Callen suffered the loss for C-L allowing four runs on five hits in three innings. He walked two and struck out four. Bryson Huwar allowed two runs, one earned in three innings. He walked two and struck out four.
Brandon Link knocked in two runs while Levi Orton, Sam Anderson, Whitcomb, and Joe DeHart each drove in one run for the Falcons.
Huwar, Smith and Drew Beichner each drove in a run for the Lions.