August 21, 2014

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High school baseball: Raiders rally in 6th inning, prevail in 9th

COLUMBIA STATION — The Patriot Athletic Conference game between Columbia and Clearview on Wednesday had all the ebbs and flows of a great prize fight.

After the Raiders tied it with a two-out, two-run single by junior Michael Boey in the bottom of the sixth, every at-bat for the remaining three innings was pressure-packed.

That’s right, three innings. The teams battled into the ninth inning before a winner was crowned.

After chances to win in the seventh and eighth fell by the wayside, the third time proved the charm for Columbia. A one-out double by Beau Pojman — which just missed being a walk-off home run — was followed by an RBI single from Jacob Simon, giving the Raiders a 4-3 Stripes Division victory.

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Columbia, which improved to 10-11 overall (9-5 PAC), will take on division-leading Lutheran West today needing a win to keep its conference championship hopes alive. Clearview falls to 11-11 (7-6 PAC).

“The kids battled to the very end through nine innings of nothing but stress,” Columbia coach Justin Ramsey said. “They came through. We had all kinds of opportunities and we finally capitalized on that last one with two hits in a row. It was clutch hitting at the end there by Beau and Jacob.

“I was very proud of my guys. That’s a very good team over there, especially when they’re 100 percent and playing well. Our guys have come through the last week or so. They’ve been hitting great.”

In Simon’s previous at-bat, he just missed on a winning squeeze bunt. With the bases loaded and one out in the bottom of the seventh, Simon bunted in front of the mound. Clearview pitcher Roger Engle fielded it and flipped it to the plate just in time to keep the game deadlocked.

Given a second chance, this time against reliever Ryan Vargo (0-2), Simon was ready.

“I was just looking for a hit — any hit,” said Simon, who went 2-for-4 with a run scored and an RBI. He was one of six Raiders with two or more hits. “Beau had just hit that big double into right field and that gave me the great chance to hit him in. He hit it that far, and I wanted to do the same. I went up there with confidence wanting to hit the ball, and I got the job done.”

The Clippers loaded the bases in the top of the ninth against Boey — 8⅔ innings, 10 strikeouts, seven hits, five walks — and reliever Danny Crites (1-0) with two two-out walks and an infield single by Antonio Bennett. But Crites coaxed a popup to second by Austin Arendt to end the inning, setting the stage for the walk-off dramatics.

“I just got done telling our guys that they busted their butts today,” Clearview coach Dennis Pihlblad said. “We left 13 runners on base and didn’t find a way to take advantage of that — failing to lay down a sacrifice bunt when we needed to. But we played pretty darn well in the field.

“Roger Engle pitched his butt off. Vargo came in and, even though he hadn’t thrown in a couple of weeks, threw strikes. I’m proud of my team today, but a few breaks just didn’t go our way.”

The Clippers took a 3-1 lead in the fifth after a fielding error, an RBI triple to center by Vargo and an RBI single by Bennett.

But with two outs and the bases loaded in the bottom of the sixth, Boey drilled a 1-1 pitch into left field for the biggest hit of his 4-for-5 day. Michael Hershey and Simon scored to tie it at 3.

“This was an emotional win,” Boey said. “We knew we needed to win out to win the conference, and this was a big game for us. We knew we had to win this game, and now that we got it done, we’ve got to ride this momentum to tomorrow.”

Contact Dan Gilles at 329-7135 or ctsports@chroniclet.com.