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Center Hill explodes for 12 hits in 5-3 win over Clinton in 6A Playoff opener

Collin Clark went the distance, and the Mustangs stole game one from Clinton after a three-hour bus ride

CLINTON — Center Hill had to travel three hours by bus for their playoff-opener against Clinton Friday night, but the trip was well worth it.

The Mustangs pounded out 12 hits and Collin Clark went the distance on the mound as Center Hill beat the Arrows 5-3 to take a 1-0 lead in the best-of-three first-round series in the MHSAA 6A Playoffs.

Game two in the series is set for 6 p.m. Saturday at Center Hill.

“The trip down here was exhausting,” Clark said. “But we ate some Raising Canes on the way here and that fueled us up.”

They ought to consider eating more chicken strips tomorrow.

The Mustangs (11-15) went right to work Friday, picking up a run in the top of the first inning when Houston Green drew a one-out walk and came around to score on Dominic Rivino’s RBI single through the left side.

They stretched their lead from 1-0 to 3-0 in the second inning after Clinton starting pitcher Grant Holmes issued back-to-back walks to load the bases. First, Landon Scruggs scored on a passed ball. Then, Charles Chisolm gave up a run when he beaned Clark with the bases loaded after relieving Holmes.

Center Hill only had three hits at that point, but their patience at the plate had already paid off.

“We finished with 12 hits and I thought we had a good approach at the plate tonight,” Center Hill coach Peyton Callahan said. “We fought with two strikes, laid down some good bunts and played error free baseball.”

Chisolm settled down and pitched around a couple of singles in the third, and the Clinton offense finally answered in the bottom of the inning. Takorre Clowers got things going with a one-out double, and Ashton Johnson ripped a ball into the gap for a triple that brought him home. Johnson went no further, though, as Clark got Tyler Janos to ground out to short and struck out Clifton Manuel to preserve the 3-1 lead.

That’s where the score remained until the top of the fifth, when Center Hill tagged on a couple of insurance runs on Logan Esfeld’s bases-loaded, two-run single.

That was huge, because they ended up needing those two runs.

Clinton added a second run in the sixth to cut Center Hill’s lead to 5-2 when Manuel and Holmes laced back-to-back doubles.

The Arrows had a chance to tie it late, with runners at the corners with Janos representing the tying run at the plate in the seventh. Janos smoked a line drive into the gap and tried to take second after the throw from the outfield got away from the Mustangs at third base.

Kette Stavely came home to score easily from third, but Clark was there to back up the throw and hosed Janos at second base to seal the 5-3 win.

Esfeld and Scott Green both tallied three hits to pace the Mustangs. Scruggs and Hunter Peeks both contributed a couple of hits as well.

Clark went all seven innings on the mound. He held the Arrows to three runs on seven hits and three walks with two strikeouts.

“I think this game really set the tone,” Clark said. “Winning the first game really gives us some big momentum going into tomorrow and having home field advantage. I think we showed we were ready to compete.”