STUARTS DRAFT — Stuarts Draft scored three runs in the bottom of the fourth inning to take the lead and then put the game away with a five-run outburst in the sixth to defeat Clarke County, 11-5, Monday in the Region 2B baseball tournament.

Draft rode a gutsy, complete-game effort on the mound from Trip Christian and a strong day at the plate to advance in the regional tournament.

Christian allowed five hits and just two earned runs to pitch the Cougars to the win.

"Trip's a hard-worker and he understands how to grind it out on the mound. Trip hung in there and he got better as the game went on," said Draft head coach Josh Podgorski. Christian struck out one batter and walked three in his seven innings.

The visiting Eagles took the lead with a run in the first. Leadoff batter Daniel Lyman reached second when his fly ball was misplayed for an error. A pair of walks loaded the sacks before Jackson Taylor plated Lyman with a sacrifice fly to center for a 1-0 Clarke lead. Christian minimized the damage by retiring Luke Lyman on a fly ball to right field for the third out of the inning.

Clarke padded its early lead with a run in the second. Jonah Cochran walked to start the inning but Christian retired the next two hitters. Cochran scored when Daniel Lyman's fly ball was dropped for an error as the Eagles took a 2-0 lead.

Draft responded with three runs in the third inning to take its first lead. With one out, Brady Ward tripled to the gap in right-center but was out at the plate when he tried to stretch the hit into an inside-the-park homer. Aric Gutt was hit by a pitch to keep the inning alive and then took second on a balk. Gutt scored when Henry Cooke lined a single to left to put Draft on the scoreboard. Mark Rogers tied the score with a bloop double to right and Skyler Saunders followed with a run-scoring single to right, giving the Cougars a 3-2 lead.

The Eagles took advantage of another Draft error in the fourth to tie the score. Cochran led off the inning with a double and moved to third when Matthew Williams was safe on an infield error. Cochran scored on Daniel Lyman's grounder to tie the game at 3-3.

The Cougars answered with three runs in the bottom half of the fourth. With one ou,t Easton Martin singled to center and Ward walked. Both runners scored when Gutt tripled to the right-center gap to put Draft back on top 5-3. Gutt then scored on Cooke's long sacrifice fly to left, making the score 6-3.

Clarke County wasn't finished as two runs in the sixth inning made it a one-run game. Cochran led off the frame with a solo homer, trimming the margin to 6-4. With one out, Williams doubled and Daniel Lyman followed with a run-scoring hit to right, pulling the Eagles to within 6-5.

Draft once again had the answer as the Cougars scored five times in the bottom of the sixth to pull away. Ward led off the inning and reached on catcher's interference and Gutt followed with a base hit to put runners on the corners. With one out, Podgorski called for the suicide squeeze with Mark Rodgers at the plate. Rodgers was unable to bunt a breaking ball thrown down and away, but Ward avoided the tag at the plate to steal home, making the score 7-5. Gutt moved to third on a stolen base before a walk to Rodgers put runners at first and third. Saunders then reached safely on a throwing error on his grounder and Gutt beat the throw home from the Clarke first baseman, pushing the lead to 8-5. Another Clarke error on a grounder by Dawson Jones allowed Rodgers to score, making the score 9-5. Saunders scored on a wild pitch and Jones scored on a bad-hop single by Christian, giving the Cougars an 11-5 advantage.

Christian then retired the side in order in the seventh to finish off the 11-5 victory.

The Cougars finished the game with 11 hits. Rodgers, Gutt and Saunders contributed two hits apiece.

"Defensively, we were bad early in the game. We have to play defense behind Trip and we did a good job of that later in the game," said Podgorski. "We hit the ball well and we did a good job running the bases. We have to take some chances on the bases. We're going to be aggressive."

Draft advances to play the winner of the Buffalo Gap vs. Strasburg contest.

CLARKE COUNTY              110         102         0              -              5              5              4

STUARTS DRAFT              003         305         x              -              11           11           3

Taylor, Williams (5), Edwards (6) and Juday. Christian and Cooke.

WP - Christian. LP - Taylor. HR - Cochran (CC), 6th, no one on.

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