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Saturday, Apr. 30, 2016

Clovers fall to Sparkplugs in semis

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Cloverdale senior Kyle Martin, right, gets a warm greeting at home from teammates after hitting a three-run homer in the third inning Monday against Speedway. [Order this photo]
ROACHDALE -- As Brian Dale trotted around the bases in the top of the seventh, it looked like Cloverdale had come from behind again.

After trailing 5-3 entering the inning, Dale's three-run homer had just put the Clovers ahead of sectional favorite Speedway 6-5.

Unfortunately, the Sparkplugs came to bat last this time and made it count, as they defeated the Clovers 7-6 to advance to the sectional title game against South Putnam.

Clover Coach Bryan Archer, while unhappy with the loss and the season's end, expressed his happiness with his team's maturity and ability to come from behind. They had won their first-round game after trailing Monrovia 6-5 in the eighth inning Wednesday.

"These kids never stop fighting; they never give up. They know that we have seven innings to play, if not more -- we went into eight innings a couple of times," Archer said.

"They know if they keep battling and stay mentally tough, then good things can happen for us," he added. "Brian, who had been a big hitter for us all season was kind of struggling for us the last 10 games or so, and he came up big for us in a big game. That's about all he could do."

As the game started, it looked like things might get away from the Clovers fast. Starter Kyle Martin allowed Michael Maloian single and a Jake Daghe walk before Joeseph Johnson homered to put the Sparkplugs up 3-0 after the first inning.

After that, though, Martin settled in, holding the Plugs scoreless for the next three innings and giving his team a chance to come back.

The comeback came off the pitcher's own bat. After a Jeff Dale walk, Jacob Battson entered as a courtesy runner. Josh Burdette was hit by a pitch.

Martin then sent a shot to left field. The Speedway fielder tracked it, but it was ultimately well out of his reach. His teammates and a tie ballgame greeted Martin at the plate.

Speedway retook the lead in the fifth, though, as Maloian reached on an error and then stole second -- his fourth steal of the night -- and reached third on a Daghe groundout. He then scored when a pitch got away from Clover catcher Austin Mannan.

The Sparkplugs added another run in the sixth, as Bryce Pennington drove in Tyler Shaw with a single.

Speedway led 5-3 and Cloverdale was down to its last three outs.

Ethan Atwood started the rally with a one-out single. Jordan Brinkman kept it going when Evan Rosner hit him with a pitch.

Brian Dale trots home after hitting a three-run homer to give the Clovers a 6-5 lead over Speedway Monday.
That gave Brian Dale the chance to play the hero. The sophomore's shot left no doubt, sailing far over the right-center field fence for the 6-5 lead.

Fortune was on the Sparkplugs' side, though. Daghe reached on a single. Johnson then flew out, but was awarded first base on a controversial catcher interference call.

"The first base umpire has a good look at it. I just asked the home umpire if he had heard it. He had, so I guess they made the right call, both of them agreed on it," Archer said. "Obviously, that changes everything there. It could have been one out with a guy on first, up one run.

"It was a tough break there for us," he added. "That's hard to deal with there in the last inning, the way we came back. It's just the way things happen; you can't do anything about it now."

Jared Nelis then knotted the score when he hit a single that took a bad bounce over Shawn Shipp's head. Jonathon Hession then drove in the winning run when a ball from his bat squirted between Brian Dale's legs.

Martin was the losing pitcher, allowing seven runs on eight hits and two walks in 6 1/3 innings. He struck out six.

Rosner was the winner for Speedway, pitching three innings of relief and giving up three runs on three hits a walk and a hit batsman. Michael McCormick started the game for the Plugs, allowing three runs on a hit, five walks and a hit batsman. Each Speedway pitcher fanned five.

Archer gave a tribute to Martin and Jeff Dale, the two seniors he is losing.

"(Martin) is a tough kid, mentally. He just goes after it, and that's one thing we're going to miss next year -- Kyle's competitiveness -- because he gets up on the mound or at the plate, you know he's going at it 100 percent," Archer said. "He's not giving in to anyone, and he's going to battle with anyone. Kyle's done a great job this year.

"Jeff has just been a solid player for us over there at first base," he continued. He made a couple plays today that a guy his size you wouldn't expect to make. He knew this was his last season and this could have been his last game and he just gave it everything he had."

The coach didn't like for it to end for these two the way it did.

"I feel bad for them losing their last high school game the way they did. That's tough. We'll miss them next year," Archer said.

The future looks bright for the Clovers, though. Their starting lineup Monday featured four sophomores, a junior and a freshman. With experience under their belts, the coach has big expectations for next year.

"We'll hopefully get to the championship game next year -- get to the championship and win the sectional," Archer concluded.

The Clovers finished the season 10-16.

At North Putnam

IHSAA Sectional 46

Semifinal 1

Cloverdale 000 300 3 -- 6 4 4

Speedway 300 011 2 -- 7 8 0

WP -- Rosner

LP -- Martin

HR -- Martin, B. Dale (CHS), Johnson (Spd)

RBI -- Martin 3, B. Dale 3 (CHS), Johnson 3, Pennington, Nelis, Hession