Clarion downs Franklin in "king's seat" game

The Clarion 10-and-under All-Stars take control of the District 25 playoffs with a 10-0, five-inning win over Franklin

By Ryan S. Pugh

CLARION NEWS Sports

Editor

CLARION

On the surface, it might appear as if the 2019 edition of the Clarion 10-and-under All-Stars are a collection big hitters who bludgeon opponents into submission but it could be argued Clarion's pitching and defense have been the catalyst for the team.

At least such was the case Monday (July 8) at Paul A. Weaver Park as Clarion moved into the District 25 final with a 10-0, five-inning win over Franklin.

The pitching duo of Ethan Rex and Paul Craig kept Franklin's bats quiet while some stellar defensive plays by the Clarion defense kept Franklin off the scoreboard.

"Since the first day of practice, we have talked about teams having to ‘earn it' against us," Clarion manager Luke Huwar said. "By that we mean play solid defense and limit walks on the mound. I think we did that as well as I could have hoped tonight."

Rex pitched the first three innings and allowed one hit while walking three and striking out one. Efficiency was the key for Rex as he only threw a total of 30 pitches to 13 batters.

"We told Ethan coming into the game to limit the walks and throw strikes," Huwar said. "He did that to a ‘T' tonight."

Craig pitched the final two innings allowing two hits while striking out two and walking one.

"Paul Craig has been a closer-type pitcher for us for a while now," Huwar said. "He's probably pitched more innings with the bases loaded than anybody out there. He came through again tonight."

Craig greatly benefitted from a deft double play turned by Alex Love and Liam Huwar in the top of the third inning but more on the play later.

Through two games, Clarion has outscored its opponents by a 27-2 margin as neither game went the distance. Clarion dispatched of Oil City by way of the 15-run rule after three innings while Clarion took down Franklin in five innings due to the 10-run rule.

Rex gave up a one-out walk in the top of the first but the free pass proved to be inconsequential as Rex retired the next two Franklin batters on a fly out and a groundout.

Clarion scraped for a run in the bottom of the frame to take a 1-0 lead.

Eli Nellis opened the inning with a single to right-center. Nellis moved to second on a wild pitch. Craig struck out and Dylan Smail followed with a groundout to first. On the groundout, Nellis moved to third. Franklin pitcher Landon Jones attempted to throw out Nellis when Nellis had made a move toward home but Jones's throw was offline and the ball sailed into foul territory. Nellis scurried home on the error for Clarion's first run. Jones got Parker Miller to foul out to third for the final out of the inning.

Rex issued a one out walk in the top of the first but once again, Franklin was unable to pounce on the opportunity as Rex recorded a fly out and a groundout to escape the inning unscathed.

Carter Hindman drew a two-out walk for Clarion in the bottom of the second but he was left stranded on the bases when Casey Kemmer struck out looking for the third out of the frame.

Rex cruised through the top of the third retiring the Franklin hitters in order. Miller pounced on a bunt and threw out the Franklin runner for the first out of the frame while Craig snared a liner by Jones for the second out. Damian Cassano grounded out to short for the final out of the frame.

Clarion took control of the contest in the bottom of the third plating eight runs to take a commanding 9-0 lead.

Alex Love drew a walk to lead off the inning and Eli Nellis hit a grounder back to the pitcher Brant MacAfoose who turned to get Love at second but Franklin shortstop Nolan Pappy couldn't handle MacAfoose's throw and all Clarion runners were safe. The error would come back to haunt Franklin one batter latter when Craig whanged a shot to left-center field. Both Love and Nellis scored on the play while Craig charged into third for a triple.

Craig was 1-for-3 with a triple and two RBIs.

Dylan Smail came up next and parked a double into centerfield scoring Craig.

Smail was 1-for-3 with a double and two RBIs.

Smail moved to third on a groundout and scored on a dropped fly in right on a ball hit by Rex.

Huwar hit a single to left center. The Franklin left fielder misplayed the ball allowing Rex to come around and score.

Later in the frame Nellis hit a bases-loaded single to push home two more runs.

Nellis was 2-for-3 with two RBIs and two runs scored.

"This wasn't our best hitting game tonight but we were able to take advantage of what was given to us," Huwar said.

Pappy opened the top of the fourth with a single to left. Presto Keith drew a walk to put runners on first and second with no outs.

Rex was replaced on the mound by Craig after the Keith walk. Jordy Jones hit a grounder to Smail at short. Smail attempted to tag Pappy between second and third but he missed and all Franklin runners were safe.

A.J. Wimer came up next for Franklin and hit a grounder to Love at third. Love stepped on third for the force out then threw home to Clarion catcher Huwar who made the tag on Pappy to complete the double play.

"Alex Love is a good utility player for us and he knew what to do when the ball was hit to him and he turned the double play," Huwar said. "That stopped what could have been a dangerous rally (for Franklin)."

After giving up a walk, Craig recorded a strikeout to end the frame.

Franklin reliever Keith issued a one-out walk to Miller in the bottom of the fourth but Parry snared a liner by Rex and Huwar grounded out to second to neutralize to end the inning.

Franklin had two on with two outs in the top of the fifth but Craig got Keith to hit a pop up back to the mound for the third out.

Clarion put together a two-out rally in the bottom of the fifth to end the game by way of the 10-run rule.

Love reached base on a two out walk while Nellis was hit by a pitch. Craig walked to load the bases and Smail drew a four pitch walk to push in Love for the 10th Clarion run.

If Clarion wins its next game, it will be Clarion Little League's eighth District 25 10-and-under title in 10 years.