The fourth Monday was finally the charm for the Ooltewah Owls last night in District 5AAA play, but it was anything but charming.
The Owls almost squandered a six-run lead, committing five errors, and going a combined 2-of-12 with runners in scoring position in the 5AAA series opener against rival East Hamilton, but thanks to Patrick Clarkson’s sterling relief effort and a couple of noisy hits the Owls managed to bag a 9-8 victory.
“It was just nice to finally get a Monday win in league play.
We’ve lost a couple of close ones when things didn’t go our way, but tonight they did. Instead of having to rebound on Tuesday which we have done for the most part, its nice taking a little bit of momentum into tomorrow’s game. East Hamilton is a rival, and they’re tough, so it feels pretty good,” said senior Fisher Perry, who had one of the noisy hits, a solo homer deep to left center which breathed a little life into the Owls early.
The Hurricanes had taken a 1-0 lead in the first with three sharp singles, including Ethan Evans’ RBI liner to center. And with Ooltewah piecing together just three hits in each of their last two Monday outings; it was an ominous start for starter Dominic Mackaluso. The senior lefty settled down, though, to limited the Canes through the next three frames and Perry’s monster shot in the third tied it and set the stage for a big six-run fourth.
Harrison Mills got a one-out bunt hit to quietly get the inning going before control problems spelled doom for East Hamilton. A hit by pitch and two walks plated the go-ahead run as the bottom of the Ooltewah order put together some quality at-bats. Bryson Smith fell behind 1-2 in the count and fouled off a pair of pitches before earning the RBI walk. Isaac Hughes followed with an infield single after falling in the count 1-2 to make it 3-1 and Aaron Merryman scampered home on a wild pitch for a 4-1 lead.
That’s when Mackaluso got the next noisy hit, driving a 2-2 pitch in the gap to clear the bases for a three-run double and a 7-1 lead.
“We don’t have a lot of holes in the lineup top to bottom, but our bottom of the order has really had some productive at-bats to turn it over to the top. Sometimes we lose our approach at the plate, but tonight we had some guys really work it and it paid off. We needed a Monday win,” said Ooltewah coach Brian Hitchcox. “When we got some momentum, I got them together and told them we needed to bust it open, and Dom came through with a big hit.”
Of course, the Canes put up crooked numbers with the best of them, and when Mackulso walked the leadoff hitter to open the fifth and a dropped pop up followed, it was the crack in the door they needed. Chase Roberts laced a run-scoring single to center to cut it to 7-2. After a pair of strikeouts by Mackaluso, another walk loaded the bases and Khaleel Marshall drove in two runs with a single to center to make it 7-4. Joe Quinlan and Jase Phillips followed with back-to-back singles to make it 7-6 and end Mackaluso’s night.
“Dom pitched better than his line showed tonight. We just couldn’t put them away. They’re an emotional team and they battled and fed off it. Clarkson came in though and had ice in his veins,” Hitchcox added.
Clarkson replaced Mackaluso in the fifth and promptly induced an inning-ending grounder with two men in scoring position.
“My job was to come in and get that out. They had a ton of momentum and we just needed to get out the inning. Thankfully we got a little more cushion there at the end, and we were able to close it out,” said Clarkson, who retired seven of the nine men he faced.
That cushion came in the form of a two-run sixth after a pair of walks set up Mackaluso’s deep sacrifice fly ball before Mills took a hit by pitch to load the bases and Hughes was hit by a pitch to force in a run and make it 9-6.
Clarkson got two quick outs in the seventh before a hit batter reached and Joe Quinlan lofted a fly ball to left just out of the reach of left fielder Noah Huling’s jump at the fence for a two-run homer to make it 9-8. Clarkson, though, forced an easy fly ball to end it.
Perry and Mills each had two hits for Ooltewah, which moves to 3-4 in league play and drops East Hamilton to 1-4. Quinlan had two of East Hamilton’s eight hits. The two teams will square off again Tuesday at the Canes’ home field.
EAST HAMILTON 100 050 2 – 8 8 0
OOLTEWAH 001 602 x – 9 7 5
Jax Phillips, Jase Phillips (4) and Evans; Mackaluso, Clarkson (5) and Zettel.
(Contact James Beach at email@example.com)