CLOVER — The Clover-York rivalry is alive and well. Whether it’s the high school sports scene or youth baseball teams representing the neighboring communities, the game means something.
Such was the case when the Clover All-Stars hosted the York All-Stars in Saturday’s O-Zone District Tournament at Clover Community Park.
With a standing-room-only crowd watching, Clover fought from behind to win the much-anticipated showdown, 14-13.
With the Clover stars trailing 13-12 in the bottom of the sixth inning, Jake Grigg stepped to the plate and delivered a two-run, game-winning single, to the delight of the home fans.
The York stars entered the top of the sixth trailing 12-10. But that would soon change in dramatic fashion.
Ryan Rabon singled to open the inning and was on base when teammate Drew Barton belted his second two-run homer of the game, tying the score at 12-all. Adam Whitesides and Justin Howell followed with back-to-back singles and Seth Smart’s infield hit sent Whitesides across the plate with the go-ahead run.
The York stars pushed across a run in the top of the first to gain the early lead when M.J. Comer’s infield single scored Brandon Adams from third.
Clover answered in the bottom of the inning when Nigel Choate doubled and eventually scored on a wild pitch.
The down-to-the-wire thriller had run production with at least one run scored in every inning, including the top of the second when York’s Curtis Howell belted a home run over the right field fence as York moved ahead 2-1.
But the lead was short-lived, with Clover regaining the advantage in the bottom of the second.
JoJo Stokes doubled to left field and scored on a groundout to tie the score.
Grigg showed that the Clover stars could play long ball when he homered to left center, staking his team to a 3-2 lead.
The York stars had a productive third inning that began with Whitesides reaching on an error. Adams followed with a single. Later, with one out, another York run crossed the plate when a balk was called. Mac Adams’ two-run single completed the third inning uprising for the visiting York team.
Trailing 7-3 in the bottom of the inning, Clover sliced the lead in half when Choate’s ground ball sent two runs across the plate. The host team scored another run on an errant throw to third.
York added two more runs in the top of the fourth, highlighted by Barton’s two-run homer.
The Clover bats came alive in the bottom of the inning, beginning with Moore’s single. Stokes followed with a two-run homer.
Grigg, whose bat sizzled throughout the game, doubled and Luke McCarter scored on a throw that was off the mark.
York tied the game at 10-all in the top of the fifth, with Comer reaching base on a single. Later, Alan Whitesides scored from third on a ground ball.
Clover pushed across two runs in the bottom of the fifth when T. J. Davis ripped the ball over center-fielder’s head, setting the stage for the sixth inning fireworks.
Commenting after the game, Clover head coach Britt Bufford was elated with the team’s gritty performance.
“I am proud of our team,” said Bufford. “I don’t want to single anyone out. Every player on the team contributed to the win. While our kids dug deep for a big win, it’s more about character and how you play the game.”
Keith Clinton and Barry Faulkner are the assistant coaches for the Clover All-Star ream.
Justin Dellinger, head coach of the York All-Star team, lauded the players for a job well done. “I am proud of the kids,” said Dellinger. “We hit the ball well, with Drew hitting two home runs. We forced Clover to have to battle back.”
Though disappointed in the loss, Dellinger said the York All-Stars aren’t through. “We can still do well in this tournament the way these kids are playing,” he said.
Mark Howell and Aaron Benfield are the assistant coaches for York.
The Clover and York all-star teams were still competing in the district tournament when the Enquirer-Herald’s July Fourth week early deadline was met. Details of the remaining games will appear in next week’s paper.