December 22, 2014

Elyria
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Baseball: Clearview’s Robert Branscum throws 1-hitter to defeat Brookside

SHEFFIELD TWP. — Due to some scheduling quirks, Clearview hadn’t played a regular-season game prior to Monday’s Patriot Athletic Conference clash with visiting Brookside.

Senior pitcher Robert Branscum, like his Clippers teammates, worked through some rust in the first two innings.

But when the dust settled, Branscum finished with a one-hit shutout. He struck out 10, walked four and lifted the Clippers to a 4-0 victory.

Branscum allowed Brookside (0-3, 0-1) to load the bases in the first and second innings. However, he not only emerged unscathed from those predicaments, he seemed to gain confidence.

“I really didn’t know what to expect because we haven’t played in a week and a half,” Clearview coach Dennis Pihlblad said. “We were rusty today, and it showed.

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“But Robert picked it up, battled through it and got the outs and made the pitches when he needed to.”

Branscum allowed only two baserunners from the third inning through the seventh. He retired the final eight batters, with his 10th strikeout serving as the exclamation point on his fine performance.

“I felt pretty good,” he said. “It’s good that I can rely on my defense. It’s always good when you know you have a defense behind you that can make plays. We brought a lot of guys back this year.

“Throughout the game, my arm just got stronger. Brookside’s a good ball team that’s well-coached. They’re kind of young, but they fought through it and fought till the end. They deserve a lot of respect.”

The only hit he allowed was in the first inning — a one-out single from Hunter Skolnicki. That was sandwiched by two walks to load the bases with one out. Branscum struck out Cameron Drew and Matt Seekins to end the threat.

In the second, Brookside loaded the bases with one out on a hit batter, an error from shortstop Matt Jordan on a Crae Watkins grounder and a walk. Branscum struck out Nick Wehler and coaxed Skolnicki to pop up to first to keep the Cardinals scoreless.

“He seemed to get stronger as the innings and the game went by,” Pihlblad said. “He started to find himself (after the second inning).”

Meanwhile, Clearview coaxed a run across in the bottom of the first on a two-out RBI double by designated hitter Ryan Vargo. He went 2-for-2 with an RBI, a run and reached base on a hit by pitch.

With one out and nobody on in the third, Armando Torres lifted a deep fly to right-center. Brookside’s Cameron Drew and Nick Wehler collided where the ball was about to land, and Torres hustled around for what was ruled a triple.

Brookside pitcher Greg Maust (0-1) hit Vargo on a full-count pitch, and Vargo stole second uncontested to put both runners in scoring position for Branscum. Helping his own cause, he drilled an 0-2 pitch off the fence in left-center for a two-run double and a 3-0 lead.

“Their pitcher threw real well, but that pitch was right there,” Branscum said. “I was able to get a really good swing on it and, to be honest, I thought it had a chance to get over (the fence). It didn’t, but it still got the job done.”

Brookside made several little mistakes, including the collision, over the course of the game that aided the Clippers and also prevented the Cards from putting a dent in the scoreboard.

“One thing we allowed ourselves to do was to allow the umpires to take us out of the game,” Brookside first-year coach Brad Bomback said. “We had guys on base, and we didn’t capitalize on what we had. After that there were some calls our players didn’t agree with, and they allowed that frustration to get to them, and it cost us. We can’t do that.

“It’s disappointing after those first two innings. I don’t think (Branscum) did anything differently. We just didn’t hit the ball or work as hard as we should have.”

Contact Dan Gilles at 329-7135 or dangilles73@gmail.com.