CLINTON -- With the Clinton River Kings up 4-0 in the third inning, Ryan Driscoll took his lead from third base. Across the diamond, Murrary Henricks bolted for second base, drawing Dubuque Senior catcher David Janes into an attempt to snipe him.
Driscoll sprinted home. Second baseman Mike Zelinskas -- realizing the Rams were caught in a Clinton double steal -- whirled the ball back to Janes.
Driscoll and the catcher collided; the ball squirted to the backstop. The baserunner knelt briefly by his now injured foe (Janes finished the game after being examined by Senior staff) before dusting himself and trotting back to the Clinton dugout, his team up 5-0.
That was the closest Senior came to stopping the River Kings’ meticulous small-ball attack Monday. Clinton bunted and squeezed, beat out throws and stole bags. When Driscoll scored, the River Kings had already amassed three hits that didn’t leave the infield.
The early lead was enough for pitcher Jake Simpson to settle in, and after six innings Clinton earned a showdown with Bettendorf in the substate finals behind a 10-0 win.
“When you have a three-run lead ... I’m comfortable throwing it to the outside, being a little more risky,” Simpson said. “Our offense was really amazing. That’s what really helped me win the game.”
There was plenty of familiarity headlining Monday’s rematch. Clinton played Senior to a 9-1 win roughly two months ago. Both teams trotted out the same starting pitchers -- Simpson versus Tyler Moldenhaur of the Rams.
The end result, too, turned out to be another rehash, treating home fans to River Kings ball at its finest -- high-scoring with a hefty dose of dominant pitching. The team played small ball early, power ball late and tight defense throughout, eliminating the Rams three days after they upset No. 1 seed Pleasant Valley.