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Bulldogs hold on to earn 3-2 win over Pioneer

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SAFE: Clinton Central junior Jacob Ross steals second base for the Bulldogs.
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YOUTH: Clinton Central second baseman Drew Hosteter was one of four freshmen to start in the Bulldogs' win over the Panthers.
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COMPLETE GAME: Clinton Central freshman JT Holton struck out seven batters while allowing two runs in seven innings for the Bulldogs.
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DENIED: Clinton Central senior catcher Lane Anes stretches to tag Pioneer senior Jeremy Merritt out to secure the Bulldogs' 3-2 win.

By AARON KENNEDY - akennedy@ftimes.com

The Clinton Central Bulldogs held on to beat the Pioneer Panthers, 3-2, for their first win of the season and their first win under the guidance of head coach Nelson Menendez on Wednesday at Michigantown.

Leading 3-0 at the start of the seventh inning, the Bulldogs were at risk of watching a lead they held all game disappear when Gage Cripe singled, headed to third base on a passed ball and then scored on a Derek Wireman hit down the third-base line. After Jeremy Merritt was struck by a pitch and Trey Waddups drew a walk to load the bases, Damon McGuire trimmed the margin to 3-2 with an RBI, and then Merritt tried to catch the Bulldogs napping and sprinted down the third-base line to try to score a tying run. Instead, the throw was made from Brendan Smith to catcher Lane Anes, who successfully stretched to tag Merritt before he could step on the plate, and the Bulldogs held on to earn their first win of the season.

“That was heads-up that we did not let that get away from us,” Menendez said. “We made a good play at the plate and got the guy out. We have told them before that someone’s got to stop the bleeding. If someone kicks one or makes a mistake, someone has to step up and make a play so that it doesn’t get compounded, especially in a two-run game.

“It is a good feeling,” Menendez added. “We played well early and swung the bat well early. We probably left too many guys on base toward the end. We probably let (McGuire) hang around. They may have made a pitching change if we could have scored a couple more runs. Defensively, we played well early. (Freshmen pitcher) JT Holton had some strikeouts early and kept us around. They are excited, which is good. But we have to turn around with the same kind of effort Friday and see what we can do.”

Holton had a big game for the Bulldogs.

On the mound, Holton pitched a complete game, striking out seven and walking three while allowing five hits and two earned runs in seven innings.

“He can play,” Menendez said. “Today, we started off with four freshmen in the lineup. We told them that they would get a chance to play in certain situations. JT threw it well. The key was that he threw strikes, and the defense played well behind him. We made two double plays, which is huge.”

Leading 1-0 after Brendan Smith singled, stole a base and then scored on a wild pitch in the first inning, Holton came up big at the plate, hitting a home run over the fence in left-center field.

“He got ahold of one and went the other way with it,” Menendez said of the left-handed freshman. “He is really good at going the other way. When he is really on, he hits the ball very well to the other direction. He hit it pretty well. We know he can play. When he is on the bump, we know that we have a chance. If we pitch well, we can play with a lot of people.”

Holton batted 2-3 with two RBIs and two runs scored in the win for the Bulldogs while Brendan Smith went 1-3 with a run scored, Jacob Hosteter scored a run, and Spencer Smith and Jacob Ross each finished 1-3.

The Bulldogs are back on their home field Friday for a 5 p.m. game versus North Miami.

“We just have to work on more contact at the plate,” Menendez said. “Defensively, we need to want the baseball. We had a couple plays that we didn’t make from guys not being aggressive to the ball. We have to not be afraid to make a play.”


At Michigantown


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