CLOVER — The Clover Post 38 American Legion baseball team avenged an early season loss last week during a midweek double-header with region foe Lancaster.
Having lost 22-2 to Lancaster the previous week, Post 38 won 5-4 in a down-to-the-wire finish at the Clover High School baseball field.
The win was the first game of twinbill against the region frontrunner. Lancaster Post 31 won 7-2 in the second game.
Post 38 hurler Barrett Courtwright, who pitched into extra innings, kept the dangerous-hitting Post 31 in check most of the game.
“That’s the longest game I’ve pitched in my life,” said Courtwright, breaking a smile after the game. “I used my fastball a lot and kept the hitters off balance with my curve ball.”
Courtwright said he pitched with confidence throughout the extra inning game and never felt tired.
“It was a big win for us,” he said. “We can win more games in our division if we hit the ball and the pitchers pitch.”
Head Post 38 coach Darrell VanDyke lauded Courtwright’s mound performance and the team for a hard-fought win.
“This is the same Lancaster team that beat us 22-2 the previous week,” said VanDyke. “Our kids had a lot of things going on when the season started and appear to be playing with more focus.”
After the teams battled to a scoreless deadlock in the first three innings, visiting Lancaster put together three hits and pushed across three runs in the top of the fourth inning.
Post 38 got on the scoreboard in the bottom of the fifth when Justin Rayano led off with a walk.
With one out, Taylor Whitley walked, putting Rayano in scoring position. After Chase Galant was retired on a popup, Zane Van delivered a single, scoring Rayano and slicing Lancaster’s lead to two.
Clover had a productive seventh inning that began with Rayano walking on four pitches and Whitley receiving his second walk.
Later in the inning with two outs, Davis McCarter beat the throw to first base, allowing run No. 2 to cross the plate.
Clover tied the game when Corey Parham reached on an error by the second-baseman, scoring Galant from third.
With runs hard to come by, Post 38 attempted a suicide squeeze in the bottom of the eighth, with Rayano laying down a bunt on the first-base side. But a Clover runner was called out at the plate and the score remained tied.
Lancaster used a triple and a sac fly to regain the lead at 4-3 in the top of the ninth.
But Post 38 was equal to the challenge in the bottom of the inning.
After Galant was retired for the first out, Patrick Love was hit by a pitch and McCarter reach on a error.
Next up was Parham, who reached on an error by the shortstop, loading the bases.
Chase Goldberg walked on four pitches, sending Love across the plate with the tying run.
Having already pitched a solid game for Post 38, Courtwright drove the ball deep to left centerfield, allowing McCarter to cross the plate with the winning run.
“It felt great,” Courtwright said of the come-from-behind win.
VanDyke said the bases loaded walk was huge for Post 38. “After they walked in a run, we could do just about anything we wanted to do,” he said.
Post 38 faced Lancaster power pitcher C. D. Pelham in the second game of the double-header.
Pelham, who has gotten the attention of major league scouts with a fastball in the 92 mph range, had a dominant performance in Lancaster’s 7-2 win.
Post 38 scored the game’s first run in the first inning when McCarter scored on a wild pitch.
Aggressive base-running by Galant led to Clover’s second run. He reached on a bunt single, stole second and third and scored on a wild pitch. “I knew we had to get a runner in scoring position,” said Galant.
VanDyke has long been a proponent of aggressiveness on the base paths. “When you become aggressive on the bases, it often disrupts your opponent,” he said.
Post 38 begins a four-game road trip at 7 p.m. Tuesday at Rock Hill.