The way District 10-AAA has been set up the past two years, early league games don’t count as district games.
But don’t tell the players those early league games don’t mean anything.
Northeast was unable to muster any consistent hitting, but managed to keep Clarksville High off balance. Trailing 1-0 in the bottom of the sixth, the Eagles came back in dramatic fashion to claim a 2-1 victory Friday night at Eagles Field.
“Both teams had a chance to score some runs midway through the game, but couldn’t capitalize on a few opportunities,” Northeast coach Dustin Smith said. “We both kind of lost momentum and didn’t get the job done, but we were able to take advantage of (Clarksville’s) mistake and it came out OK for us.”
Clarksville High had already pulled starter Brady Cook after he walked his second runner with one out in the bottom of the sixth and his team clinging to a 1-0 lead. Austin Brown took the mound and promptly struck out Northeast’s Kody Doron.
With the Eagles’ Ben Wilford at the plate, Brown threw a wild pitch that Clarksville catcher Gunnar Bowling couldn’t handle. That allowed Brandon Latteri to score the tying run. Northeast’s Luke Veltri was rounding third as Bowling tracked down the ball at the backstop, but his flip back to homeplate trickled to the pitcher’s mound and Veltri slid home for what would be the game-winner.
“It was a tough loss,” Clarksville coach Brian Hetland said. “I just hope we learn from it and find where we broke down , and it wasn’t just the sixth where we broke down. We were three-for-three in stolen bases, but scored only one run so we couldn’t take advantage of that.”
Hetland said he pulled Cook out of the game, despite a strong game to that point, because Cook had pitched Tuesday to warm up for Friday’s game against a district rival. Cook gave up five hits and struck out one, giving up the only two walks of the night.
“We’re not going to burn him up this early in the season,” Hetland said.
The win for the Eagles (3-0) and loss for the Wildcats (2-1) counts toward the regular season tally, but the three-division district counts only one district game despite playing multiple times. The league will return to its traditional format next year without divisions while counting all district games.
“This is the best I’ve seen our district,” Smith said. “From top to bottom, there is no let-up. Usually there are a few teams at the top and the rest, but this year there are so many great teams. It’s going to be a battle every game.”
Most of Friday’s drama came in the final two innings as both pitchers controlled the mound. Latteri pitched a complete game, struck out six and allowed six hits. But the Wildcats were able to touch Latteri in the top of the fourth. Donnie Everett and Brown hit consecutive singles. With one out, Brady Hill grooved a Latteri pitch to left field for a sacrifice fly, scoring Everett for a 1-0 lead.
The game briefly got heated with the Wildcats at the plate in the top of the fourth. Hetland, standing next to his third-base coaching spot got animated, lobbying for what he considered a balk from Latteri in front of Northeast’s dugout. Smith began yelling, and as the game moved from the top half to the bottom, the umpire banished Smith to the dugout.
“We both played our best guys,” Smith said. “We’re both trying to win. Nobody wants to lose a game, but in our district this year, everyday you’re going to have to go out there with your best guy no matter who you’re playing.”
All six of Clarksville’s hits came from players, but none were for extra bases. The Eagles had four players earn five total hits as Latteri helped his own cause with a pair of singles. Wilford added a double in the win.
Northeast 2, Clarksville High 1
Clarksville High 000 100 0 – 1 6 1
Northeast 000 002 x – 2 5 1
NE: Brandon Latteri and Shaq Bermudez; CHS: Brady Cook, Austin Brown (1) and Gunnar Bowling
WP – Latteri (1-0), LP – Cook (1-1).
Records: Northeast (3-0), Clarksville High (2-1).