CLARION - Five hits may not sound like much, but on Monday night at Weaver Field, Clarion's 10U All-Star baseball team turned it into 10 runs.
A 10-0, mercy-rule victory over Franklin in the District 25 winner's bracket final.
The Clarion stars used a combination of solid defense and pitching and patience at the plate, while also capitalizing on some shaky play in the field by the Franklin team en route to the victory.
"Since the first day of practice, we've been talking about making teams earn it against us," Clarion head coach Luke Huwar said after the win. "And by that, we mean playing solid defense and limiting walks on the mound, and I think we did that about as well as I could've hoped for the kids tonight. It was absolutely the key to the game."
Clarion struck first in the bottom of the first, and it did so on just one hit - a leadoff single from Eli Nellis.
After a strikeout by starting pitcher Landon Jones, Nellis advanced to second on an unassisted groundout to first base before attempting to swipe third on the toss back to the pitcher. The throw to third was a wild one, allowing Nellis to scamper home for a 1-0 Clarion lead.
That's where the score would remain until the bottom of the fourth, when Alex Love led off with a free pass against relief pitcher Damian Cassano. Nellis then reached on an error before Paul Craig stroked an RBI single up the middle. The ball would get past the center fielder and roll all the way to the wall, scoring a third run and leaving Craig at third.
He wouldn't stay there for long as Dylan Smail brought him home on a double over the left fielder's head. After a groundout, Smail scored on a dropped fly ball to right field, setting up an RBI double to left-center off the bat of Liam Huwar, putting the score at 6-0.
After a pitching change, Brody Beggs and Billy Kahle coaxed walks to load the bases. A force out at home provided the second out for Franklin, but Nellis sent a two-RBI single down the right-field line while still leaving runners at first and third.
One of those runs came home to score on a wild pitch before the inning ended with Clarion holding a 9-0 lead.
Franklin had a prime opportunity to counter in the top of the fourth as Nolan Parry led off with a single, Preston Keith walked and Jordy Jones reached on an infield single to load the bases with no outs.
A.J. Wimer then sent a hard grounder to third baseman Love, who smartly stepped on third before firing home in time for the catcher to apply the tag to the runner trying to score for a rally-killing double play that sapped the life out of the Franklin squad.
Clarion ended the game early in the bottom of the fifth when Smail waited out a bases-loaded walk to score Love.
Nellis led Clarion with two hits and two RBIs while Smail added a pair of RBIs on one hit. Love also scored three times in the win.
Ethan Rex picked up the win on the mound, striking out one over three-plus innings of work before Craig came in and finished off the shutout with two scoreless innings, striking out two.
Parry paced Franklin with two of its four hits. Franklin will now take on Oil City at Oil City today at 6 p.m. in the loser's bracket final for the right to take on Clarion again.