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Cougars Fall to Warner On Walk Off Single
Clearwater traveled to Lake Wales on Saturday afternoon for a non-conference twin bill against Warner University, an NAIA program in The Sun Conference.
The Cougars controlled the game until the bottom of the seventh inning as sophomore starting pitcher Will Kirby rolled through the first six innings keeping the Royals offense off balance. He struck out the side in the first, and allowed just three hits after six innings.
The Royals cut their 3-0 deficit in their half of the sixth as catcher Logan Hunter singled in center fielder Chris Mejia, who was walked to lead off the inning, making it a 3-1 game.
Clearwater got their three runs in the fourth and fifth innings. In the fourth, junior Jon Rivera knocked in a pair of runs after a misplayed pop up by the Royals defense allowed junior Noel Thomas and freshman Caleb Jordan to score. Thomas was walked to start the inning and Jordan reached on a fielder's choice.
The Cougars third run came in the fifth after junior Jefte Velez hit a one out single, followed by freshman Jake Reidy's one out double, putting runners at second and third. Thomas was in the action again, knocking in Velez on a ground out to second base, giving Clearwater a 3-0 lead going into the bottom half of the fifth.
After Warner scored a run in the sixth, it set up a dramatic finish, with nearly the same outcome as last seasons match up between these two teams on January 31, 2012, when the Royal's hit a walk off single in the bottom of the ninth.
Warner sent three consecutive pinch hitters to the plate, which proved to be the right call, as Dylan Gross, Brandon Kirby, and Brad Benbow all collected base hits to lead off the inning. Kirby hit an RBI double that made it a 3-2 game. Kirby scored on a ground ball to shortstop Jake Reidy, and although the infield was pulled in, Reidy didn't have a play at home, and recorded the out at first. Third baseman Johnny Groubert came up with one out, and the winning run at third base. He came through with an RBI single, and the Royals came out on top 4-3 in their second consecutive walk off victory against Clearwater.
Ryan Ruble picked up the win for Warner, throwing seven innings, striking out five, giving up three hits, and surrendering three earned runs.
Kirby (2-5) took the loss, after throwing 6 1/3 innings, scattering seven hits, striking out five, walking three, and giving up four earned.
Clearwater drops to 6-20, and Warner improves to 14-20.
Notes: Kirby threw his second consecutive complete game...fourth time the Cougars have played a game this season that has finished on a walk off, first game being on the losing side...eleven of nineteen outs recorded by Warner's offense were on flyballs or pop ups...each team left six runners on base.
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