Long time coming: Red Devils headed to 3A state championship
Clinton left no doubt on its way to its first state finals appearance in more than 50 years with a dominant 11-1 victory over visiting Seneca Wednesday.
The Red Devils walked off with the Class 3A Upper State championship by scoring eight runs in the fifth inning to invoke the 10-run mercy rule and advance to a best-of-three state championship series against Thursday’s Hanahan/Brookland-Cayce winner. Hanahan must be beaten twice to be eliminated.
The state championship series is scheduled to begin Saturday at the home of the Lower State champion.
The Bobcats (17-11) scored its lone run in the first inning, but were shut out the rest of the way by starter Wil Stewart, who went 3 2/3 innings before giving way to Carson Glenn, who worked out of a jam in the fifth after Seneca brought the go-ahead run to the plate with two outs. Stewart picked up the win before leaving the mound due to shoulder soreness, and Glenn, who has three of Clinton’s six playoff victories since the postseason began on May 2, earned the save.
That set up the Red Devil bats. Clinton had failed to take advantage of a lead-off triple by Justin Copeland, leaving him stranded on third base, but made up for that and more in with an eight-run fifth that sent everyone home early – and the Bobcats home for good this season.
Pinch-hitter Harrison Moore hit a bases-clearing double highlighted the inning, which began with back-to-back doubles from Bryce Young and Zane McLendon to extend Clinton’s lead to 4-1.
“I just needed to execute,” Moore said. “I was thinking ground ball to the back side, and if I happen to smoke one like that, then I’ll take it.”
Young went 2-for-3 at the plate and scored two runs, and Wilson Wages went 2-for-3 with three RBI and a run scored.
Clinton had made its way unbeaten through the playoffs without the benefit of a big inning, relying on tenacity on the mound, execution at the plate and solid defense.
Red Devils head coach Sean McCarthy had been waiting for an inning like Wednesday’s fifth.
“People would say we play small ball, but we play what I call an execution-style offense, so we did that today, and we had some great hits,” McCarthy said. “And we had some gutsy pitching.”
Seneca starter Carson Bay took the loss for the Bobcats, giving up seven runs on eight hits in four innings of work.
The Red Devils (24-3) roughed up three Seneca pitchers for 11 runs – 10 earned – two days after Bobcats ace and Clemson signee Jacob McGovern one-hit Belton-Honea Path in a 1-0 victory.
Clinton’s last state title in baseball came in 1961, but the Red Devils made it to the Upper State round last year and in 2016, when they fell to Seneca.
McCarthy remembered that loss well — and a controversial call at the plate that sent the Red Devils home.
Clinton made sure close calls were avoided this time around.
Go Big Red!