Times Sports Editor
JASONVILLE -- Agonizing.
That's about the only way to describe the final inning of Clay City's baseball battle with sectional foe Shakamak if you're an Eels' fan.
For the fifth consecutive year, the homestanding Lakers eliminated the Eels from postseason play. This time however, Shakamak will know it was in one whale of a tussle with its Clay County opponent.
Clay City was able to push across a run in the top of the fifth inning, the contest's lone score of the game. However, the Lakers got a clutch two-run double by pitcher T.J. Hill in the bottom of the sixth frame to hold off the Eels, 2-1.
"It's tough one," admitted Clay City coach Ryan Swearingen. "Both pitchers pitched a great game. We played well tonight, but (Shakamak) was just one run better than us."
The pitching match-up was the same as an earlier season battle between the teams that resulted in a 5-4 Clay City victory.
Clay City's Ryne Hayes and Hill threw up zeroes over the first four innings, combining to allow just one hit apiece.
In the top of the fifth inning, the Eels seemingly got just the break they would need.
Matt Vansickle reached when his groundball to third base resulted in an error when the throw to first was in the dirt. Hayes followed with a looping popup that dropped just inside the rightfield line for a base hit with just one out.
Gus Camp followed with a grounder that resulted in Hayes being forced at second, but the attempt at the double play to first was wild. The throw went to the fence allowing Vansickle to scoot home with the game's first run.
Hayes, who had managed to work his way out of a couple of early jams due to his own ability and the defense behind him, gave up his third walk to John Smith with one out in the bottom of the fifth.
Tim Betts hit into a fielder's choice for the second out before Billy Newton chopped an infield single to the third base side.
Hayes responded by getting the final out on a comebacker to the mound and the lead remained into the bottom of the sixth inning.
The Lakers put their first two batters on via a walk and a hit batter, but Jaret May's sacrifice bunt attempt came too close to the stealthy Hayes.
The Eels' junior jumped from the mound and made a heads up throw to get the force out at third base.
Hayes looked like he might get out of the inning when he struckout Josh Horton for the second out and got two strikes on Hill. But the Lakers' sophomore worked the count deep, fouled off a couple of pitches and laced an RBI double to the centerfield fence to bring in the go-ahead run.
In their final at-bat, the Eels got a one-out walk from senior Kyler Rhodes, but Hill was able to get Matt Vansickle and Hayes on strikes to end the game.
Afterwards, Swearingen was complimentary of his team's game against the Lakers.
"We've improved each year and it's fun to see how these kids have improved," said Swearingen. "I'm really proud of these guys and the season we had. This is one of the best seasons we've ever had. This is one of the closest sectional games Shakamak has had in awhile."
The Lakers advance to face North Central in the sectional title game at 7 p.m. tonight. The T-Birds defeated Union 10-0 in six innings in Thursday's first game.
The Eels finish the season at 13-6 overall and graduate Vansickle, Paul Aleman, Kyle Grassick, Ben Dickey and Camp.
Class A Shakamak Baseball Sectional
2B -- SH (Betts, Hill).
|Hayes (L, 7-1)||6.0||2||3||6||6|