ROACHDALE -- When the Cougars and Clovers last tangled on the baseball diamond, it was in the first game of the sectional when Cloverdale upset North Putnam in eight innings. On Monday, the Cougars were able to use the strength of a big second inning to defeat the Clovers 11-5.
The Cougars have struggled with errors this season and Monday was the first game head coach Norm Fish felt the team had played to their capabilities.
"We played with a lot fewer errors tonight," Fish said. "We've really been struggling just making routine plays and tonight we made a few more routine plays. We have a big inning at the plate and that carried us through. A lot better than we've seen.
"These young guys need some confidence and hopefully tonight they got some. Our biggest thing is we've been playing good enough everywhere but defensively. We were making seven or eight errors a game. Finally tonight we had some routine plays that we made," he added.
The Clovers began the game by recording just two hits, but both were bombs from Brian Dale in the first and Frankie Skiles in the second. They looked poised and ready to end their current skid, but North Putnam's bats came to life in the bottom of the second, an inning that saw 14 Cougar batters have a plate appearance.
Tyler Watson got the onslaught going on a ground-rule double and was brought home by Brandon Kimmel on the next at bat. Kimmel was plated when Brock Jones blasted a shot to left-center field. Starting pitcher Mychael Buchanan recorded two RBIs on a hit to the gap in right-center field. Shawn Diebold and Kyler Badten had an RBI each in the inning, and the final run was scored on a Brandon Kimmel ground-rule double to right field.
When all was said and done, North Putnam collected nine runs on seven hit and smashed any momentum the Clovers had.
Cloverdale head coach Bryan Archer acknowledged that the one big inning is something his team has struggled with this season.
"That one inning we were leaving pitches belt high, chest high, we weren't hitting our spots," he said. "Not saying that Jeff (Dale) gave them that whole big inning, they did a good job and they hit the ball in the gaps. I have to give credit to North Put, that's just good hitting, but that big inning, our pitching has to tighten up, our defense has to tighten up -- everything has to come together. We can't allow innings like that.
"Out of eight games, we probably let five or six out of the eight have an inning like that," Archer continued. "That's what I told them, you take away that inning, so what if we give up one or two runs, you take away that one big inning and we're going to be right in there with them if not winning."
Archer went on to say he thought Dale and the team played solid the rest of the game, but they have to eliminate that huge inning.
"Like I told them, we still haven't put a complete game together, whether our offense and defense is playing well and then our pitching has done us in; or our pitching and hitting and then we make errors," Archer commented. "We haven't combined all four aspects. I told them that once we put a complete game together, we're going to be fine; we are going to be tough. We just have to focus when we get out there and do it."
The Clovers added two more runs in the third and one in the top of the seventh, but as it has already this season, the one big inning was the Clovers' shatterpoint. They were never able to recover and the Cougars earned the win.
North Putnam added a run in the fifth and Watson capped the Cougars' night with a monster blast to that cleared the driveway behind the right field fence easily.
At North Putnam
Cloverdale 112 000 1 -- 5 5 1
N. Putnam 090 011 x -- 11 11 1
WP -- Buchanan
LP -- J. Dale
HR -- (NP) Watson, Jones; (CHS) B. Dale, Skiles
2B -- (NP) Buchanan, Watson, Kimmel