By Jeremy Costello
Neither pitcher had that great a start for the opener of El Dorado’s home doubleheader against Clearwater.
The Indians scored two quick runs in the first inning, but the Wildcats went around the order to take a commanding 6-2 lead.
The difference in the game was that El Dorado’s Easton Smith settled down on the mound, while Clearwater’s Zach Gerberding never made it out of the first inning. Smith threw 11 strikeouts and overcame a few hiccups the remaining six innings as he got a complete-game win in the Wildcats’ 8-6 win.
The Wildcats, though, fell apart in game 2 as Clearwater was able to salvage a split with a 13-0 blowout win Monday at McDonald Stadium.
In the opener, Smith got a strikeout of Gerberding to start the game, but the Indians drew two walks, hit a single and scored a run on a passed ball for a 1-0 lead. Bryson Rushing then crushed an RBI double for a 2-0 lead. Smith later hit a batter before ending the inning with a strikeout.
El Dorado showed good patience at the plate in the bottom half of the first. Cade Marrow led off with a walk, then stole two bases on a pick-off error. Smith drove him in with an RBI single. After another error, Spencer Dodson then drew a walk to put runners on the corners. Zac Ruff then connected for an RBI single to tie the game 2-2.
Cole Roberts drew another walk from Gerberding to load the bases. That set up Braeden Henderson nicely, who took advantage of that with a three-RBI single, two of which were unearned. Ridge Towner later hit another RBI single that put El Dorado ahead 6-2.
Clearwater changed pitchers with two outs as Rushing got a strikeout of the first batter he faced.
Smith hit another batter to start the second inning, but after that, he was solid the rest of the way for the Wildcats. He threw out a batter at home, then got a flyout and a strikeout to end the inning.
In the third, he gave up a couple more walks and an RBI triple, but he threw out another run at home, then got two straight outs with a strikeout and a flyout to end the inning.
Two errors let Clearwater claw back into the game, however, in the fourth inning. With runners on the corners, Clearwater pulled off a double steal of second and home. The Indians’ Collin Ellis then hit an RBI single to pull Clearwater within one at 6-5.
The Indians threatened to tie the game in the fifth after Smith hit a couple more batters. He got Eric Baughman to hit into a fielder’s choice, but the Indians had runners on the corners with two outs to set up a crucial moment of the game. Smith rose to the ocassion by freezing Gerberding at the plate for a strikeout to end the inning.
Rushing, meanwhile, seemed to cruise by the Wildcat batters. He struck out the El Dorado side in the third, then got two more strikeouts and a flyout in the fourth. But El Dorado finally got to him in the bottom of the fifth. ruff doubled to the right-center field gap to start the inning. Roberts then drove him in with an RBI single for a 7-5 lead. Roberts reached second on an error and moved to third on a bunt out by Henderson. Rushing then was called for a balk, which allowed Roberts to score and push the Wildcats’ lead to 8-5.
Smith got five more strikeouts and gave up just one more run through the final two innings to seal the win. Smith gave up four earned run for the game. Clearwater finished with just five hits off Smith, but he hit four batters and allowed six walks.