MT leads early, rallies late to beat McClain, 4-3


Ask any high school baseball coach and they’ll tell you the same thing.

It’s very hard to beat a conference opponent three times in one season.

That was the task set before the Miami Trace Panthers as they began the 2023 Sectional tournament will a home game against the McClain Tigers Monday, May 15.

During the regular season, on April 13, Miami Trace beat McClain at Mitchell Park in Greenfield, 12-1.

On April 19, at Miami Trace, the Panthers hosted the Tigers and won that game, 3-2.

On Monday, it was a good pitching match-up between McClain’s Haydon Hice and Miami Trace’s Brady Armstrong.

Miami Trace scored two runs in the bottom of the first and maintained that lead until the seventh.

McClain scored one run in the top of the sixth and then took a 3-2 lead with two runs in the top of the seventh.

The Panthers responded with two runs in the bottom of the seventh to take the win, 4-3.

Miami Trace improves to 18-6 on the season and will play the Jackson Ironmen, another Frontier Athletic Conference opponent, Wednesday at 5 p.m. at Jackson.

Jackson is now 19-5 after an 8-2 win over Gallia Academy (6-14) Monday evening.

Jackson took the season series with the Panthers, winning at home, 1-0 on April 12 and winning at Miami Trace, 7-1 on April 24.

Hice pitched six and one-third innings for McClain, suffering the hard-luck loss. He allowed four hits and four runs (one earned) with three walks and three strikeouts.

Armstrong pitched six innings with five hits and two runs (both earned). He walked three and struck out six.

Gaige Stuckey got the win in relief. He pitched one inning with two hits and one run (earned) with two walks and one strikeout.

Offensively for Miami Trace, Stuckey went 1 for 3 with a walk and two runs scored.

Jameson Hyer was 1 for 3; Dillon Hyer was 1 for 3 with a double and one RBI; Cam Morton had one hit and Ben Mathews scored one run.

Seth Weller led McClain, going 2 for 4 with a double and one run scored.

Jayden Allison was 1 for 4; Andrew Potts was 1 for 2 with two walks and one run scored; Gavin Warren was 1 for 3; Tanner Dalton was 1 for 3 with two RBI and two walks and Eli Douglas pinch-ran and scored for the Tigers.

Weller led off for McClain and hit a double on the second pitch delivered by Armstrong.

He was left stranded.

In the bottom of the first, Gaige Stuckey led off with a walk.

Cooper Enochs reached on an error and with one out, Dillon Hyer hit a double, scoring Stuckey with Enochs moving to third.

Enochs scored on a wild pitch to give the Panthers a 2-0 lead.

The next four innings were scoreless for both teams.

In the second, Andrew Potts reached on an error and Gavin Warren bunted him to second.

Cohen Six singled into left field, but the Tigers left both runners on base.

This was a recurring theme for McClain as the Tigers went on to strand a total of 11 runners to six for the Panthers.

In the top of the sixth, the Tigers cut the deficit in half, trailing 2-1.

The Panthers got a runner to third in the bottom of the sixth, but did not score.

In the seventh, Weller singled off the glove of a leaping Austin Boedeker at shortstop.

This spelled the end of the outing for Armstrong as the Panthers brought in Stuckey.

Hice put down a sacrifice bunt and Weller went to third on a wild pitch.

Penwell lifted a sacrifice fly that scored Weller to tie the game.

Allison singled and Eli Douglas ran for him.

Potts walked and Gavin Warren had an infield hit to load the bases.

Tanner Dalton drew a walk to score Douglas to give the Tigers a 3-2 lead.

The next batter was retired to end the inning.

The Panthers had to score at least one run to keep their season alive as they came to bat in the bottom of the seventh.

Cam Morton led off with a single and Ben Mathews pinch-ran for him.

Stuckey singled to the outfield and when the ball got past the fielder, Mathews was able to score to tie the game. Stuckey made it to third on the play.

Next up was Cooper Enochs and he hit a ball into the outfield, deep enough for a sacrifice fly that scored Stuckey with the game-winning run.

“Hice is a heck of a pitcher,” Miami Trace head coach Rob Smith said. “We’ve had battles (with him) for three years. (McClain) is a solid baseball team. They are very well-coached. I give all the respect in the world to (McClain head coach) Kenny (Branscom) and Keith Penwell, their football coach (and assistant baseball coach).

“Their kids play hard,” Smith said. “They have a lot of wins where they get in trouble a little bit. It’s probably because they don’t have a lot of pitching depth. They’ve got a nice team.

“Beating a team three times in one year is tough,” Smith said. “Somehow our kids gutted it out after we got behind there.

“We’ve been playing good baseball and we started out the game and left a couple of runners on base that maybe we could have gotten in that inning and maybe made the game a little different,” Smith said. “Then Hice, after that he was sailing until the last inning.

“We’re very fortunate,” Smith said. “At this time of year, it’s win and survive.”

McClain head coach Kenny Branscom had praise for the senior pitcher, Hayden Hice.

“He’s done exactly what he’s done for four years for me,” Branscom said. “He gets on the mound and he absolutely fights, from start to finish.

“He keeps us in ball games,” Branscom said. “His pitch count is typically low, like it was today. Sometimes in baseball the ball just doesn’t fall your way.

“We made a couple of mistakes trying to get to a ball and keep runners where they were and it ended up costing us in the end,” Branscom said. “It was a great game, right? Everybody got their money’s worth tonight.”

McClain finishes the 2023 season with a record of 10-13-1.

“Overall, we came out of the gate really hot,” Branscom said. “We won four in a row. We had a span where we lost six straight games by a total of eight runs. We just couldn’t get over the hump. We’ve had seven or eight games that we’ve lost by one run.

“We’ve battled with almost every team we’ve seen this year,” Branscom said. “I’m really proud of my guys. Everybody here knew Greenfield was on the baseball field today.”

McClain says thank you and farewell to four seniors: Haydon Hice, Gavin Warren, S.J. Adkins and Tanner Dalton.

In other games in the Southeast District Monday, it was Washington 11, Logan Elm 0 in 5 innings; Fairfield Union beat New Lexington, 6-2.

Sheridan defeated Hillsboro, 10-2; Circleville upended Athens, 9-1; Unioto shut out River Valley, 10-0 and Warren blanked Waverly, 4-0.

The Sectional championship games are: Fairfield Union at Washington, Miami Trace at Jackson, Circleville at Sheridan and Warren at Unioto. Games are Wednesday at 5 p.m.

The District semifinals are set for Monday, May 22 at Ohio University at 4 p.m. and then on a rolling schedule for the second game. The District championship game is Wednesday, May 24 at Ohio University at 6 p.m.


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