Times Sports Editor
CLAY CITY -- There was plenty at stake in Monday's Southwestern Indiana Athletic Conference baseball battle at Clay City High School. Not the least of which was remaining in the hunt for a conference title.
"We're 3-1 in the conference and right now that's what matters is getting these conference wins under our belts," Clay City coach Vance Edmondson said. "We did a nice job of battling after we got out to an early lead, fought back and Colton Harbour comes up with a big hit in the bottom of the seventh and we scratched across a run."
The Eels nearly let a 4-1 lead, courtesy of a three-run home run in the third from starting pitcher Brylan Jones, get away as Eastern kept pecking away at the advantage.
Jones danced with some danger most of the game, walking seven batters through five innings of work, but got himself out of most of the trouble via strikeout.
The senior hurler allowed just two hits over those five innings while striking out 10, but the T-Birds were able to plate the tying run in the fifth without benefit of a hit.
Jake Johnson reached on an error before Jones walked Jake Hash and Nathan Cobine to load the bases with one out. Back-to-back hit batters drove in runs and a sacrifice fly by Zak Eckerle tied the game before Jones struck out Robert McCann to end the inning.
However, the T-Birds threatened again in the sixth inning as Jones walked the first two batters of the inning to end his evening.
Ben Denker came in from shortstop in relief and provided just that, relief.
Denker allowed a go-ahead single by Hash to drive in Logan Frye, but settled in to get out of the threat by striking out two of the next three batters to keep the Eels close at 5-4.
"Ben (Denker) did a great job. In the past, he's been pretty clutch at coming in and getting big outs when we needed it and finishing off games," Edmondson said of his senior. "I think when something is one the line he steps his game up a little bit and tonight there was. He did a great job of coming in and relieving Brylan (Jones)."
The Eels tied the score in the bottom of the sixth as Cobine walked Harbour and Seth Barrett with one out and Zach Boggs singled to load the bases. After pinch-runner Evan Sumner was forced out at home on a grounder to third, freshman Trevor Smith singled in Barrett to tie the game.
After Denker shut the door in the seventh inning after giving up a pair of walks, the Eels got a one-out single by Smith, who stole second and then came around when Harbour drilled an RBI single to give Clay City the victory.
Afterwards, Edmondson was understandably excited after knocking off a 5-2 Eastern squad in conference play.
"We knew they were going to be tough going in and we played some pretty good ball. We beat a solid ball club," Edmondson said.
The Eels (3-5 overall, 3-1 SWIAC) play at Linton on Thursday.
At Clay City
2B -- CC (None), E (Hash). HR -- CC (Jones). SB -- CC (Denker, Smith), E (Frye, Johnson, Eckerle).