TRURO — Mount Ayr jumped out to an early lead, and after Clarke battled back to make it a ballgame, scored a pair of insurance runs to hang on for the 7-3 victory in the opening round of Class 2A district play here Saturday.
Mount Ayr improved to 17-12 for the season, while Clarke ends its season at 1-19.
Heath Evans got things started for the Raiders in the first inning with a single and stolen base, scoring on Jacob Taylor’s single up the middle. Taylor stole second base and scored on a Zane Sickels single.
Courtesy runner Quency Vos stole second and and advanced to third on a wild pitch before scoring on a double down the left field line by freshman Nick Wurster, putting Mount Ayr up 3-0.
“That was big scoring early, because jumping out on top like that, those runs were close at the end,” Mount Ayr head coach Tanner Rinehart said. “They came back and scored three runs in the sixth inning to make it close at the end, and we got burned on some runs. Those were big, scoring early.”
The Raiders tacked on another run in the top of the second inning on an RBI double by Evans, and took a 5-0 lead in the top of the sixth inning on an RBI groundout by John Triggs.
In the bottom of the fourth inning, Mount Ayr senior right fielder Dylan Doman fielded a grounder that got through to the outfield and quickly fired to first base to throw the batter out.
But Clarke batted around in the bottom half of the sixth, closing the gap to 5-3 on Mount Ayr relief pitcher Jake Still, who took over for starter Weston Schnoor after the second inning.
The inning started with an outfield fly ball out, but Still then walked Zach Harmsen. Still then induced a grounder back to the mound for the second out of the inning.
Landon Spurgin followed with an RBI double into center field as Taylor made a diving attempt for the ball, but couldn’t make the play. Yahia Aly kept the inning going with a single to left field.
Still walked Damon Helgevold on four straight pitches to load the bases and then issued a bases-loaded walk to leadoff hitter Chasen Selsor to make the score 5-2. On a 1-1 count, Still plunked Dustan Van Loon to make it a 5-3 game, before getting a groundout to end the inning.
Mount Ayr added two insurance runs in the top of the seventh on RBI singles by Zane Sickels and Austin Quick to make the final margin 7-3.
“Those were huge hits,” Rinehart said. “Zane Sickels was the first one and Austin Quick, there was a runner on second when both of them came up and hit RBI singles. I told the guys before the inning we need a couple of insurance runs and we found a way to score, and that kind of sealed the deal.”
By not starting the game Saturday, Still will now be available to take the mound Tuesday when the Raiders return to Truro to take on Interstate 35 at 7 p.m.
“We knew we’ve got to pitch him Tuesday against I-35,” Rinehart said. “So we wanted to get two, maybe three innings out of Weston, even one to save Jake’s arm a little bit. We knew Clarke was going to bring everything they had at us. Weston, he loaded the bases in the second inning and got us out of that, so we called Jake in and he did his job for a while.”
The Roadrunners own an 8-2 win over Mount Ayr earlier this season.
“It was Jake Still versus Tommy Bregar, and that’s my prediction again,” Rinehart said. “That’s probably what the setup would be. It all goes through I-35 here and that’s what we’ll be bringing. There’s no secret. They hit a three-run homer early in the game and we had some fielding errors, so we’re looking forward to the contest.”
Mount Ayr 7, Clarke 3
R H E
Mount Ayr 310 001 2 — 7 12 1
Clarke 000 006 0 — 6 5 2
Weston Schnoor 1K 2BB, Jake Still (3) 5K 4BB 2HBP and Zane Sickels. Gable Reece 6K 1BB and Damon Helgevold. W — Schnoor. L— Reece. HR — none. 3B — none. 2B — MA: Heath Evans 1, Nick Wurster 1. Cl: Landon Spurgin 1. RBI — MA: Sickels 2, Evans 1, Jacob Taylor 1, Austin Quick 1, Wurster 1, John Triggs 1. Cl: Chasen Selsor 1, Dustan Van Loon 1, Spurgin 1. Multiple hitters — MA: Evans 3, Schnoor 2, Sickels 2.