Chiefland turns in big innings to beat Eagles

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By Sean Arnold

There were times during last Friday’s game at Bronson when the Chiefland baseball club, in action for the first time since March 10, looked like a team that was playing its first game in two weeks.

Indian pitchers surrendered eight walks and a hit-batter, and the defense’s four errors proved costly, as Bronson exploited those self-inflicted mistakes to help stir its offense, leaving no lead safe in the offensive onslaught.

For its part, Chiefland made maximum use of Eagle miscues – particularly in a three-error fifth frame – and rode a double-digit hit night to a 14-8 win.

Facing a 5-5 tie heading into the fifth, the Indians (5-2 overall, 3-2 in District 1A-7) blew it open with five runs off three errors as well as a pair of hits from Josh Webber (2 for 5) and Wyatt Hammond and a walk by Casey Lawson.

All five runs came with two outs.

“Here’s the best way I can put it,” BMHS coach Allen Strickland said. “We’re having flyball and routine groundball issues. One of those is bad enough in baseball, but when you’ve got both of them going on at the same time, you’re not going to win many games.”

The Eagles (0-9, 0-5) fought back with runs by Caleb Rice (2 for 3, walk), Brian Simpkins and Donny Clifton – who boarded four times on three walks and a hit-by-pitch – to narrow their deficit to 10-8 by the end of the sixth. Those latter BMHS rallies were punctuated by a Rice single and a Wayne Shipp RBI double into right field.

“We were not clean defensively, and we walked some batters and our pitching wasn’t real sharp,” CMHS coach Kyle Parnell said. “But give Bronson credit, they bother you, they always make it tough on you, so we’re proud to get out of here with a win.”

A Lawson walk and hits from Seth Thomas, Kelby Osteen, Elijah Smith and Keegan McLelland led to four more insurance runs for Chiefland in the seventh. McLelland, the starting pitcher for the Indians, culminated the rally with an RBI liner to score Smith.

Osteen took the mound in the fourth and pitched the final four innings, earning the win along the way as he collected eight strikeouts, four walks and three hits. McClelland struck out four, walked four and yielded three hits in three innings.

The Indians tallied 11 hits and delivered strong contact on several more balls in play.

“It could have been anybody’s game,” Parnell said. “I did feel good about how we were hitting the ball hard, putting it in play. As I told some of the guys, some of our hardest hit balls were right at people.

“We’re seeing the ball, and that’s a good sign, to have a little offensive life there and to take advantage of some situations we were given.”

Chiefland first got on the board in the opening frame on runs by Lawson – who went 1 for 1 with a double, four walks and three runs – and Thomas, who doubled in the first and finished 2 for 4 with three runs scored. Osteen (2 for 5) drove in Lawson on a base hit before Jose Guerrero saw Thomas home on a sac fly.

A single by Bronson left fielder Harley Crain along with a hit-batter against Donny Clifton helped the Eagles even the score in the bottom-half of the first.

In the second inning, the Indians broke a 2-2 tie with a Zach Bloom (three runs scored) run, aided by two hit-batters and a couple of wild pitches. Bronson struck back later in the second with a two-run double to right-center by Tra Francis, bringing in Mason Clifton and Donny Clifton, who each reached on walks.

Chiefland combined a double by Casey Lawson and a single from Zach Bloom with a couple of BMHS passed balls to get back on top with two runs in the fourth, before the Eagles knotted it back up at 5-5 in the bottom-half of the frame on a Mason Clifton (single) run.

“We did start to score some runs, I’m pleased with that,” Strickland said. “If we make those routine plays, we’re in the win column a lot more than we have been. It just is what it is.”

Shipp started on the mound for Bronson and went three innings. Shortstop Donny Clifton started the fourth in relief and recorded 3 ⅓ innings, before handing the ball off to the left-handed Simpkins to pick up the final two outs.

Up next for Chiefland is a home meeting with Bell on Thursday (7 p.m.). The Indians are then at home again on Monday, April 3, against Newberry.

Bronson is on the road at Trenton and Branford on Thursday and Friday before returning home for a district tilt against Branford on Tuesday, April 4.

Strickland said his team appears rejuvenated from spring break.

“We came back rested up and healthy and really a little more excited to play,” the Bronson skipper said. “I think we really needed it to be honest with you. When you’re hot, sometimes you don’t need that break, but we weren’t, so we needed it.

“We still have potential to make some noise when it matters, we’ve just got to clean up those little things.”