The phrases ‘put the ball in play” and “make the other team make a play’ are straight out of the baseball/softball coach cliché quote book.
But the phrase exists for a reason. And Frankfort followed those two adages, taking advantage of six Clinton Central errors – five by the Bulldogs’ infield in the final two innings when they had the lead – to win the county title, 8-3.
“You run hard, you don’t give up on plays, guys take extra bases on errors – sometimes that makes a difference,” Frankfort head coach Andy Dudley said.
Of the 11 runs allowed by Central pitcher Jeff Scott and Frankfort pitcher Miguel Alanis, only two were earned. Both tossed great games but Alanis came out on top, allowing three runs (one earned) while holding a heavy-hitting CC team to only three hits. Alanis struck out 10 without walking anybody.
Well after the game was over, Alanis was still holding the county championship trophy.
“I ain’t gonna let go,” Alanis said. “I just gave it my all. I wasn’t going to give up until I got the win.”
Central – the home team on the scoreboard despite the game taking place at Frankfort – took a 2-1 lead in the bottom of the fifth thanks to two Hot Dog blunders. With runners on second and third and two outs, CC’s Jake Burton swung at a high pitch for strike three. However, Frankfort catcher Hector Lopez couldn’t catch the pitch and it rolled to the backstop, allowing Justin Blevens to score to tie the game at 1-1.
A few pitchers later, with runners on the corners, Alanis made his only mistake of the night and was called for a balk, advancing the runners and plating Mitch Snell.
“I don’t know what happened with me that I balked, but we never gave up,” Alanis said. “That’s what matters. I was mad at myself. But I really didn’t think we were down. To us, being down by one doesn’t mean anything.”
But Central got tangled up in a web of mistakes in the top of the sixth. Frankfort scored four runs – all with two outs – thanks in large part to three Bulldog errors. With Jordan Ham on first, Varner hit a ground ball to CC shortstop Levi Smith, who bounced his throw to first base and Snell couldn’t come up with it. The next batter, Ralph Myars, laced a single right down the third-base line to score Ham to tie the game at 2-2.
The next batter, Alanis, hit a ground ball to Smith but he couldn’t field it cleanly, scoring Varner for a 3-2 Frankfort lead.
The Hot Dogs weren’t done. Isaac Wood hit a roller up the middle and second baseman Brayton Pattison fielded it. However, instead of stepping on second for the force or tagging Alanis, Pattison threw to first and Wood beat it out, scoring Myars for a 4-2 lead. Alex Isgrigg then hit a ground ball to Pattison, whose throw to first base was off the mark, allowing Alanis to score to make it 5-2.
“I wish we played a little bit better defense and given Jeff a chance to earn the win,” Central head coach Eric Flickinger said. “We’ve got to shore that up. Jeff’s going to be pitching come sectional time and we’ve got to play defense behind him.”
Central came back with one run in the top of the sixth as Brody Quick’s RBI groundout scored Scott, who tripled.
Frankfort added three more insurance runs in the top of the seventh. Ham drew a walk and Hector Lopez singled to kick off the frame. The next batter, Leo Lopez, laid down a sacrifice bunt. Scott fielded it and threw to first, but Pattison was late covering and the ball bounced off his glove and rolled down the first-base line, allowing Ham and Hector Lopez to score for a 7-3 Hot Dog advantage.
Leo Lopez made it all the way to third on the play and FHS took advantage. The next batter, Varner, struck out, but the pitch was not caught cleanly, forcing Blevens to throw to first. Lopez took off for home on the throw and Snell’s throw back to home was wide and off the mark, giving Frankfort an 8-3 lead.
After Rossville won the county title a season ago, it was important for Hot Dogs to win it back. Dudley stuck to that strategy by pitching his two conference pitchers – Leo Lopez and Alanis – in the two games on Saturday.
“You can’t take anything for granted with county schools,” Dudley said. “We struggled last year and didn’t win it. We wanted to make sure we gave ourselves the best chance to win.
“It’s a sectional format so I’m proud of our guys and (Central’s) a sectional-level team. It was a good opportunity for our guys to see that.”
Scott was a hard-luck loser, allowing eight runs (one earned) on 11 hits, striking out three and walking two.
“He pitched absolutely wonderful,” Flickinger said. “On the balls that got booted, they were great pitches to get what we wanted and we didn’t back him up defensively (Saturday). And that’s a shame.”
Perhaps Central was out of gas, after two exhaustive conference games during the week and an extra-inning affair in the semifinal earlier in the day.
“It’s been a high-pressure week,” Flickinger said.
Rossville 7, Clinton Prairie 2
Rossville took advantage of four Clinton Prairie errors to defeat the Gophers, 7-2, in the consolation game. Steven Holford led the Hornets with two hits while seven others had one hit each. Brayton Cooper drove in two RHS runs. Mason Roberts earned the win, allowing one run on two hits with four strikeouts in 4 innings pitched.
Nick McElroy and Kyle Horlacher each had RBIs for the Gophers. Daniel Guess took the loss, allowing seven runs (three earned) on eight hits with four strikeouts in 5 2/3 innings.
Clinton Central 3, Rossville 2
Cole Simmons hit a solo home run in the top of the eighth inning to lead the Bulldogs past Rossville, 3-2. Scott came on in the bottom half to earn the save. Smith stuck out seven in seven innings to earn the win.
Central took a 2-0 lead in the second when Quick scored on a RBI double from Blevens and Blevens scored on a groundout off the bat of AJ Bradley. Rossville tied it at 2-2 in the fourth on a two-run homer by Levi Ellars.
Frankfort 13, Clinton Prairie 2
Frankfort scored seven runs in the first and six in the fourth to defeat Clinton Prairie, 13-2, in five innings. Alex Isgrigg was 4-for-4 with two runs and two RBI, Myars had two hits and three RBI and Evan Giebel had two hits and two RBI. Hector and Leo Lopez both drove in two runs each.
Leo Lopez got the win, allowing two runs on four hits with nine strikeouts in four innings. Kevin Cripe, McElroy, Ryan Walker and Cameron Carlson had a hit apiece, with Walker and Houston Moore each driving in a run. Cy Dieter took the loss, allowing 10 runs (seven earned) on eight hits in three innings.