By Scott McNeish
Herald Assistant Sports Editor
CLINTON — The Clinton baseball team wasted little time revving its young offensive engine.
The River Kings, who have 11 juniors and one sophomore, showed their blossoming nucleus is ready to contribute immediately. As immediate as the first inning this season.
A five-run first frame lifted Clinton to a season-opening 9-1 triumph over Camanche on Thursday night at Alliant Energy Field.
“It was big for our team,” Clinton shortstop Jake Mangler said. “We have kind of a younger team, so to come out here and get a big start, get some runs in the first inning was big for our confidence.”
Clinton (1-0) batted nine hitters in its half of the first, which lasted 29 minutes. Camanche (0-3) starter Logan Hilgendorf needed 42 pitches to end it.
“I think everybody got in more of a comfort zone once we scored all those runs,” said Clinton first baseman Austin Krick, who went 2-for-3. “Everybody was tense, but then we scored five, and everybody relaxed a little bit.”
Walks, errors and aggressive baserunning fueled the early scoring barrage. Clinton scored the five in the first on only one hit.
“That's not going to happen very often,” Clinton coach Trent Snowden said. “We did take advantage of a lot of their mistakes, especially in that first inning.”
The River Kings added single runs in the second and third, before plating two in the fourth. They missed a chance to enforce the 10-run mercy rule in the fifth.
“We really tried to get 10 runs, but we never got to it. It's OK, though,” said Mangler, who had an RBI double in the fourth. “We kept it up. We kept putting up runs. Through the season, we need to learn to finish a little bit better. But it's our first game. We're all right with what we did.”
Camanche, which lost twice to Central DeWitt on Wednesday, committed six errors and stranded 10 runners on base. The Indians went 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position.
Their lone run came on Taylor Fisher's RBI groundout in the seventh.
“We had plenty of opportunities, but we just didn't capitalize,” Camanche coach Darryl Cochran said. “We gave them some easy (runs). You take out that first inning, it's a different game. We couldn't get that key hit when we needed it.”
The Indians loaded the bases with two outs in the first and fifth innings, but each time, they marooned all three runners.
They also had runners on second and third with one out in the third. This time, however, they hit into a rally-killing double play. Clinton's hurlers found ways to wiggle out of jams.
“That'll be big in the long run,” Krick said. “If we can continue to do that, we'll win a lot of games.”
Clinton and Camanche, along with Northeast and Preston, will participate in Saturday's Clinton Tournament at Alliant Energy Field. Clinton and Preston will play in the first game at 10 a.m., followed by Camanche and Northeast at noon. The two losers play at 2 p.m., with the winners playing at 4 for the tournament championship.
Scoring by innings
Camanche 000 000 1 — 1 3 6
Clinton 511 200 x — 9 8 2
Logan Hilgendorf, TJ Runge (5); Blake Pennock, Justin Clark (4), Greg Young (6) and Shawn Winoski. Two or more hits — Clinton (Austin Krick). 2B — Clinton (Winoski, Jake Mangler). 3B — Camanche (Hilgendorf). RBIs — Camanche (Taylor Fisher); Clinton (Krick 2, Winoski, Mangler, Darryl Sexton, Jared Jones).
By Scott McNeish