Times Sports Editor
It's not always about how a team starts a game, but more often how it finishes and for the Clay County 13-year-old team, a strong finish led to an 11-5 victory over Valle Field and a berth in today's championship game.
Clay County did plenty of damage at the plate during the game, scoring in each of the first three innings to take control of the contest.
Tanner Knust led off the game with a single to centerfield and after Nick Rush struck out the next two batters, Clay County got some two-out magic from Ben Girton and Hunter Wolfe, who each hit run scoring doubles. Brayden White followed with an RBI base hit as Clay County led 3-0.
Valle Field didn't let Ames settle in too comfortably in the bottom of the inning as a lead off pop up in the infield by Travis Adams was dropped by Ames. Brett Herndon followed with a ringing RBI double and TJ Collett brought him home with another two-base hit. Ames walked Cody Malloon, RJ Easton singled to load the bases and Brayton Hoopingarner brought a run home after being hit-by-pitch. A run scoring single followed before Ames could record the final out, trailing now 4-3.
Clay County fired right back in the second inning on a single by Tucker Stewart, Seth Barrett was hit-by-pitch and Hunter Wolfe walked to load the bases to set the plate for White, who smacked a two-run single to put his team back on top.
Clay County stayed right there thanks to Ames, who settled down and started throwing strikes against Valle Field, virtually shutting the offense down for most of the game.
The lead grew for Clay County in the third inning on a bloop single by Mitchell Howald, a bunt single by Ames scored a run as the throw to first base got away. Tanner Knust singled to continue the rally, Barrett walked and a great bunt by Girton resulted in a hit and an RBI. Another error scored Clay County's eighth run of the game.
Valle Field crept within 8-5 in the fourth inning on a walk, an error and an RBI base hit from Rush.
The sixth inning proved fruitful for Clay County as well with Ames leading off with a double and moving to third on a wild pitch. Knust hit an RBI fielder's choice and Girton followed with a run scoring triple and then came in to score on a wild pitch and an 11-5 lead.
Ames would do the rest, allowing only a two-out double to Maloon in the sixth inning before finishing the game with a pair of strikeouts in the seventh inning.
Clay County advances to the championship game this afternoon at 1 p.m. to play the winner of Friday's second game between New Castle and Edgewood.
13-year-old Babe Ruth state tourney
2B -- CC (Girton, Wolfe, Ames), VF (Herndon, Maloon, Easton). 3B -- CC (Girton).