By Shannon Fagan, WEIS Sports Director
SPRING GARDEN – Spring Garden senior Cam Welsh won a pitcher’s duel with Sand Rock sophomore Zach Clanton on Tuesday, a 4-1 Panther victory.
The Berry College signee tossed five innings, allowing an unearned run in the first inning. He fanned eight Wildcat batters.
“They’re a pretty solid team and we could’ve gotten rattled early, but we didn’t,” Welsh said. “We kept our composure and that was good in the long run.
“I finally found my rhythm. You really don’t think about those strikeouts in the flow of the game, but that definitely helps when you keep runners off the bases.”
“We started off slow with the bats, but that’s the benefit of having a senior pitcher like Cam, one who’s seasoned and has a ton of experience on the mound. That’s what helped pull us through the game,” Spring Garden coach Cole Murphy said. “He got in his rhythm, and when he gets in his rhythm he’s good. That helped out tonight.”
Meanwhile, Clanton was the tough-luck loser after working 3 2/3 innings for Sand Rock (0-2). He allowed just two runs on two hits with three walks, two hit batters and eight strikeouts before giving way to Jake Middlebrooks.
“Zach gave us a great outing,” Sand Rock coach Cody Short said. “We’ve just got to be able to make some plays and get out of some things. We just can’t get over the hump. We’re knocking on the door, but we just can’t seem to get the big hit when we need it.”
Murphy said Clanton “pitched amazing.”
“I didn’t know anything about the kid, but I know who he is now,” Murphy said. “He hit his spots. He did a good job switching up his speed. His off-speed was there. At times he made us look silly at the plate. I thought he did a really good job too.”
Sand Rock took the early 1-0 lead when Morgan Tucker drew a walk and scored on an error at first with two outs.
Spring Garden (1-1) went ahead for good with a pair of runs in the bottom of the third. Clanton loaded the bases with no outs. Both runs scored on a fielder’s choice by Welsh to give the Panthers a 2-1 edge.
The Panthers tacked on two insurance runs in the bottom of the sixth off Wildcat reliever Caidan Bullard. Connor Bates and John Welsh posted back-to-back infield singles. Bates later scored on a wild pitch and Welsh scored on an error at second to provide the Panthers a 4-1 lead.
Spring Garden reliever Reece Winstead, who retired the side in order in the top of the sixth, got into a little trouble in the seventh. He walked No. 9 hitter Caleb Yoder to lead off the inning. He then got Brian Giles to ground into a fielder’s choice at second, then struck out Jace Turner for the second out.
Winstead then walked Tucker to bring the tying run to the plate in Kane Robison. Robison grounded out to Winstead to end the game.
“He did a great job of coming in hot,” Murphy said of Winstead on the mound. “He hit his rhythm quickly. They did a good job the second inning slowing him down and getting a couple of runners on, but that’s the thing about Reece. He loves the pressure and loves to compete.”
Chapel Pope had a double and was hit by a pitch. Bates, John Welsh and Zane Edwards each added a hit for the Panthers.
Giles, Middlebrooks and Caleb Yoder each had a hit for the Wildcats. Yoder also walked. Tucker walked three times.