Times Sports Editor
Though none of the coaches would readily admit that Wednesday's county baseball match-up between Northview and Clay City meant anything extra. But rest assured that after the Eels controlled last year's game on the way to an 8-2 victory, the Knights weren't overlooking this round.
Northview got a measure of revenge this year, scoring five runs over the first three innings and added some insurance late in a 9-3 victory over the Eels.
"We came out really good, but we lost some of our focus on concentration later, which is something we'll address in practice," Northview coach Scott McDonald said.
Clay City coach Ryan Swearingen was quick to praise the Knights' play against the Eels.
The Knights jumped out on top early, getting to Clay City starter Ryne Hayes for a pair of first inning runs.
Hayes walked Andrew Butts to lead off the game and Zac Niehaus followed with an infield single to second base, beating the throw. Niehaus moved up to second base and both runners would come home on a two-run single from Caleb Mason.
Given an early 2-0 lead, Northview's Caleb Mershon handled the Eels over the first three innings, allowing just one hit while striking out four Eels.
"Caleb is still catching up from basketball," admitted McDonald. "But I thought both he and Craig (Bell) both did a nice job and they are only going to get better."
Northview added to its lead in the third inning as Matt Nodley reached on a walk and moved to third on a Clay City error. Niehaus followed that up with an RBI single and Mason drove home another run with a single, his third RBI of the game.
Seth Lunsford brought home the game's fifth run when he doubled into short centerfield to bring home Mason for a 5-0 advantage.
Clay City was able to muster a rally beginning in the fourth inning when Kyler Rhodes beat out an infield single. Following a strikeout by A.J. Evans, Will Kennedy reached on a fielder's choice grounder that was thrown away in a force attempt at second base. Both Rhodes and Kennedy reached safely and Hayes drove in the Eels' first run with a single through the shortstop hole.
Mershon was able to get the second out by striking out Tanner Persinger before Bell came in to strike out Austin Fuller to end the inning.
The Eels added two more runs in the sixth inning when Evans was hit by a pitch from Bell. Kennedy then launched a one-out pitch over the leftfield wall to narrow the deficit to 5-3.
Northview came right back to extend the gap in the top half of the seventh-inning getting a lead off double by Butts to deep centerfield. Nodley followed with a single and Butts came in on an errant pickoff throw to third base. Nodley then added the seventh run on a wildpitch. Niehaus came to the plate and added his third hit of the game followed by a double to center field by Mason, which was his third hit of the contest.
Roy Brown sacrificed Niehaus home on a pop fly out and pinch hitter, Kodie Girton, came into deliver a run-scoring single to rightfield to cap the scoring at 9-3.
Bell closed out the Eels in the final inning, striking out Fuller and Braxton Griffith to end the game.
"Last year we were kind of scratching our heads, wondering what happened," McDonald said of the loss to the Eels. "But we finally saw a good pitcher tonight and we took some good hacks and were aggressive at the plate."
The Knights improve to 3-0 overall while Clay City falls to 0-1 this season. Northview takes on Martinsville on Friday at 5 p.m. while Clay City plays Sullivan on Saturday at 10 a.m.
2B -- Nv (Butts, Mason), CC (None). HR -- CC (Kennedy).