Vince Billings went the distance in a weather-delayed Class 3 District 8 semi-final, played at Highland High School on Tuesday night, because Monday night’s scheduled game in Macon was rained out.
The Indians face the top-seeded Highland Cougars, now on their home field. Grant Plenge faced Highland’s Tucker Olson to start the game. Plenge was hit by a pitch and took first.
Clark County has been an aggressive team on the bases lately, and Plenge wasted no time stealing second as Tanner Elam went to bat. Elam grounded out, but advanced Plenge to third.
With Zeb Riney at the plate, Plenge stole home to put the Indians on the scoreboard. Riney singled to Cougar left-fielder Cole Schutte. Riney then stole second and third with Caleb Lapsley at the plate. Lapsley singled, but Riney was held at third. Lapsley stole second, and Evan Cameron hit a hard grounder to center field, scoring Riney and moving Lapsley to third. Lapsley would be tagged out attempting to steal home, and Chandler Bevans struck out to end the top of the first with a 2-0 Indian advantage.
Olson struck out the lead off the Cougars. Derek Howes grounded out the Bevans at first base. Chad Smith slugged a double to right field, and Tommy Harvey walked. Hunter Florea struck out to leave two Cougars stranded on base.
In the top of the second, Garrett Brammer walked, and was safe at second as Highland dropped the ball on the tag. Logan Gutting grounded out, but moved Brammer to third. Billings doubled down the third base line, scoring Brammer. David Lemmon took Billings place as a courtesy runner. Plenge popped out the center field. Elam singled to right, scoring Lemmon. Riney grounded out to Cougar first, and the Indians took a 4-0 lead.
Schutte singled to start the Cougar’s half of the second inning. Reilly Eisenberg hit into 5-4-3 double play. Jagger singled, and Coby Kessler followed with a single. Olson popped out to Gutting at second to end the threat, and Clark County led 4-0 after two complete innings.
Lapsley walked to start the third inning, then lightning and rain forced a delay of more than an hour. When play resumed, Chad Smith took the mound for Highland, and walked Cameron. Bevans grounded out, but advanced Lapsley and Cameron. Brammer walked to load the bases, and Gutting singled to bring Lapsley across the plate. Billings and Plenge struck out, leaving the bases loaded, but the Indians increased their lead to 5-0.
Howes singled for the Cougars, and Smith hit a fly ball to center for an out. Harvey smacked a two-run homer over the left center field fence, and the Cougars were on the scoreboard. Florea popped up, and Schutte struck out to end the inning, and Clark County led 5-2.
Elam doubled to start the fourth, and Riney hit into a fielder’s choice. Elam was out at third. Riney stole second, and Lapsley lined out. Cameron singled on a slow infield hit, and Riney scored from second as the Cougars were caught off guard. Bevans struck out, but the Indians increased their lead to 6-2.
Eisenberg singled for Highland, and Jagger doubled. Kessler grounded out to Gutting, who checked the runner at third before getting the out at first. Olson popped out to Gutting, and Howes grounded out to Gutting as the Cougars left two more on base. After four innings, Clark County led 6-2.
Brammer walked to start the fifth, and Gutting hit into a fielder’s choice, with Brammer being thrown out at second. Billings grounded out, but advanced Gutting. The inning ended with some controversy, and Gutting was tagged out, but Indian Coach Jerry Jerome argued that he was blocked by a Cougar player.
Smith grounded out to start the Highland half of the fifth inning. Harvey hit a fly to Elam in right field for a second out. Florea walked, and Schutte struck out to end the inning.
Plenge doubled to lead off the sixth inning. Elam popped out, and Riney singled to score Plenge. Riney was out at second as Lapsely singled, and Cameron grounded out, but the Indians took a 7-2 lead.
Trailing by five, the Cougars were feeling the pressure. Eisenberg popped out the Plenge at the plate, and Jagger was thrown out a first on a dropped third strike. Kessler grounded out to end the sixth inning.
Bevans reached base on a passed ball to start the Indian seventh. Brammer and Gutting struck out, and Billings popped up for the third out.
The Cougars went down in order in the bottom of the seventh, with Olson striking out and Howes and Smith hitting fly balls, as the Indians upset the Cougars 7-2.
Billings gave up eight hits and two runs in a complete game for the Indians. Olson pitched two innings, and allowed five hits and five runs. Smith finished the game, throwing five innings, allowing five hits and two runs. The Cougars committed seven errors, while the Indians made only two.
The Indians will play the winner of the Macon/Palmyra game tonight (Wednesday) at Macon. That game was suspended at Palmyra due to weather. It will start at 4pm, with the district championship game to follow.