A reinvigorated Cloverdale squad stormed the field at the Speedway Sectional and handed North Putnam a 6-5 loss in eight innings.
"North Putnam's a solid team, they're a good team, so I knew if we let them hang around things could turn a different way for us," Cloverdale head coach Bryan Archer said. "They ended up taking the lead in the seventh and I told the guys 'Don't worry about the three, don't worry about winning, we need to get two runs to keep playing,' and we did that."
Cloverdale scored early and held the advantage until the top of the seventh when North Putnam put three runs on the board to take the lead.
Kyle Alcorn got the inning started with a double to left-center field, with Shawn Diebold adding a single. The duo scored when Tyler Watson sent a line drive to center field that smacked the wall like it insulted him, giving the Cougars a 3-2 advantage. Mychael Buchanan batted in Watson bring the score to 4-2 in favor of North Putnam.
Cloverdale responded with two runs in the bottom of the seventh to tie the game at four-all. After North Putnam scored in the top of the eighth, it looked as though Cloverdale's run might be over.
Cloverdale's first batter struck out, then Kyle Martin singled to left, giving new hope to the Clovers. Moments later it looked like that hope was shattered when he was picked off at first base.
With two outs, Cloverdale made its move. Ethan Atwood reached on an error and was followed by a single to center field by Jon Alexander. Zak Osburn took to the plate and sent a high shot to left field over the head of the Cougars' Diebold, bringing in Atwood and Alexander and bringing his teammates on the field to celebrate a 6-5 victory.
"Cloverdale won the battle," Cougar head coach Norm Fish said. "They kept coming back and we didn't make plays. I've said all along that routine plays win or lose ball games. You can't win that way."
Archer noted that after the team had an hour long hit around Wednesday, Osburn and Atwood stayed and took some extra batting practice. He also acknowledged that he told them that if they put in the time, good things would happen. It certainly did on Thursday.
When asked to pinpoint the nature of North Putnam's woes in the contest, Fish singled out the stagnant first five innings they played.
"For one, you can't play a two-inning game," he said. "We did nothing until the sixth inning. I'm not taking anything away from Cloverdale; they won the game. They came out, stayed in it, were confident they could beat us and they beat us. You can't play a two-inning game."
The Clovers got a nice performance out of sophomore Josh Burdette. He recorded just three strikeouts on the night, but held his command and was able to get outs when they were needed.
"I couldn't ask for anything else," Archer commented. "He pitched so well against Owen Valley and we beat Owen Valley and then he comes in here and does the same thing. He mixes up his pitches well and for the most part kept his fastball low, but his curveball was his pitch tonight.
"I told him that he needed to come out tonight and be a bulldog and just let it all hang out. Give everything you have, every pitch, one at a time and be a bulldog. He did a great job," Archer added.
Archer also commented that not many people have his Clovers with a shot of advancing in the sectional and noted that in the post-season records mean little.
"That's the good part about sectional, everyone starts off 0-0 and anything can happen. It's a whole new season," Archer said.
Despite the loss, Fish said that Thursday's game was a prime example of why his passion for the game runs so deep.
"That's baseball and that's why I love the game. Anybody has a chance on any given day," he said.
For Archer, the win was the culmination of a season's worth of trying to get a team to buy into a new coach's system. If Thursday was any indication, the team looks to be on board.
"I'm just really happy with this win because I don't know how long it's been since Cloverdale won a sectional game," Archer said grinning. "Being my first year, they're starting to buy into what I'm doing and that's just hard work, dedication and putting time in and you're going to be successful. Man, it's a big win, a big win for us."
Cloverdale will be back in action Monday in the second game of the Speedway Sectional.
North Putnam 000 001 31 -- 5 13 2
Cloverdale 200 000 22 -- 6 10 1
WP -- Burdette
LP -- Heron
2B -- Alcorn, Watson (NP)
Next game -- Cloverdale will be back in action Monday in the second game of the Speedway Sectional.