By Tom Schultz For the Herald
The Clinton Herald
---- — CLINTON — Waiting until Wednesday to play their baseball games against the Burlington Grayhounds turned out to be a good decision for the Clinton River Kings. Not only did they avoid playing in the rain Monday, but they swept the doubleheader, winning 6-0 and 13-3.
Young, lanky, left-hander Cole Pennock was on the mound for the opener and came out throwing hard with good bite on his curve.
“I knew I was rolling when I was throwing my curve consistently for strikes because I knew they didn’t want to swing at that pitch; they wanted to swing at my fastball,” Pennock said. “So I could throw that for strikes, and I forced them to swing at what I wanted them to and I can pitch my game.”
Pennock spread out four Grayhounds hits over the seven-inning shutout and at one point retired nine straight batters.
“Outstanding pitching performance from Cole Pennock. I think that’s the best I’ve seen him pitch since he’s been a River King,” coach Kevin Cunningham said.
With solid defense behind him, Pennock was able to relax on the mound and take control.
“I felt good. I knew I had a great defense behind me tonight. The goal was tonight to keep my pitch count down, and I think I did a good job with that tonight,” Pennock said.
Burlington wasn’t able to move a runner past second base during the game, and the River Kings got out of any tense situations by relying on their defense, which turned a flawless double play in the fifth to neutralize a threat.
Clinton picked up all of its offense for the first game in the bottom of the third. Sending 12 batters to the plate, Clinton knocked out six hits and took advantage of a Burlington error to give themselves some breathing room. The two-run error was followed by the biggest blow of the inning, a two-run single by Cody Nolan that put the game out of reach at 6-0.
The second game started off a bit rocky for the River Kings, who were in a 2-0 hole after the top of the first. Burlington capitalized on two Clinton errors in that inning, which began with a single from Chanse McChesney.
“My defense is really what I can depend on,” said Jake Simpson, Clinton’s Game 2 starter. “My defense really just always comes through for me and helps me, so when I’m in that 3-1 count, 3-2 count, I can throw that fastball and know that I have a defense behind me if they hit it.”
Clinton wasted no time fighting back, putting two runs across the plate on two Grayhounds errors, two hits and a sacrifice fly, the first of three on the night from Cody Collender. The game didn’t stay tied for long, as Burlington squeaked out another run against Simpson on three bloop singles to the outfield.
“They’re hard to deal with. You think, ‘Oh, I could have maybe struck them out,’ but in the end there’s nothing you can do about it so you just have to erase it and come back with the next batter,” Simpson said.
From there, Simpson shut down the Grayhounds, and the Clinton offense was only getting started.
The River Kings took over the lead in the third with three runs on another Burlington error and a two-run single from Evan Jackson, who drove in five runs during the win. A single run in the fourth gave the River Kings breathing room with a 6-3 lead, but they weren’t done yet.
Things broke open big time in the sixth inning.
“It’s funny. We tend to be behind in the beginning and then typically in the third or the sixth inning, for whatever reason, seem to be the inning that everything starts to flow for us, and we saw it again tonight in the sixth inning. That seems to be our inning all the time,” Cunningham said.
The River Kings scored four runs before reliever Gavin Standard got the first out of the inning. It all started with a towering triple from Collender, and after that, the hitting was contagious.
Ryan Driscoll hit a grounder to first, but first baseman Brice Plein was slow on the throw, allowing Collender to slide in safely. Meanwhile, the Grayhounds left second base unoccupied, and Driscoll kept running on the chopper that would have been an easy out. Driscoll was driven in by Jordan Chapman, who followed a beautiful bunt single from Nolan that loaded the bases.
The big blow came from Jackson, who ripped a three-run double to the gap, making it 11-3 in favor of Clinton.
The River Kings kept pounding away at Standard, pushing across two more runs for the 10-run win over Burlington and the sweep that brought their conference record back to .500.
“We’ve won four MAC games in a row, and I think we’ve won nine games in a row. Going for 10 in a row on Saturday. I think we’re hitting our stride, and it’s an excellent time for that to happen.” Cunningham said with playoffs on his mind, which are just around the corner.
CLINTON 6, BURLINGTON 0
Burlington 000 000 0 — 0 4 1
Clinton 006 000 x — 6 8 1
Martin (2 1/3 ip, 7 h, 6 r, 4 er, 3 bb, 2 so), George (3 2/3 ip, 0 h, 0 r, 0 bb, 3 so) and Elmore; Pennock (7 ip, 4 h, 0 r, 3 bb, 3 so) and Faur. Multiple hits — Burlinton (Elmore 2). 2B — Burlington (Durbala). RBIs — Clinton (Nolan 2, Jackson, R. Driscoll).
CLINTON 13, BURLINGTON 3 (6 INNINGS)
Burlington 201 000 — 3 6 3
Clinton 203 107 — 13 12 2
Rossen (5 ip, 7 h, 6 r, 4 er, 4 bb, 2 so), Standard (1/3 ip, 4 h, 7 r, 7 er, 2 bb, 0 so) and Elmore; Simpson (6 ip, 6 h, 3 r, 1 er, 1 bb, 4 so) and Faur. Multiple hits — Burlington (Patterson 2, Durbala 2); Clinton (Faur 2, Chapman 2, Jackson 3). 2B — Clinton (Jackson). 3B — Clinton (Collender). RBIs — Burlington (Hoschek); Clinton (Collender 3, R. Driscoll, Chapman, Jackson 5, A. Caldwell 2).