Clay's Jon Quinlan is congratulated by teammates at home plate after hitting a home run during Monday’s Three Rivers Athletic Conference game against Central Catholic. THE BLADE/LORI KING
The Clay Eagles brought their hitting shoes Monday to Mercy Field, rapping out 14 hits to back the pitching of senior right-hander Kyle Daly in a 10-5 Three Rivers Athletic Conference baseball victory against Central Catholic.
It was the first TRAC defeat for the host Irish (13-3, 7-1), and enabled Clay (14-5, 7-2) to remain in the conference title chase along with Central, St. Francis de Sales, and St. John’s Jesuit.
The Eagles got at least one hit from eight of the nine batters in their lineup, and managed at least one hit in six of the seven innings they batted.
IN PICTURES: Clay 10, Central Catholic 5
“We’ve been preaching all year to this group to be aggressive early in counts,” Clay coach Jim Phillips said. “We were ready to go. We were barreling up the fastball, and the wind was blowing out, so that helped a little bit early.
“That balance is kind of how it’s been all year. It seems like we’ve had a different guy lead us every night. It’s been a total team effort. If you take one guy out of this mix, we’re not where we’re at.”
Daly, who raised his season record to 6-0, yielded five hits, struck out five, and walked two batters. This from a pitcher who threw in only two varsity games last season.
“The hitting was pretty solid today with 14 hits, and I have to give it to my defense for making the plays,” said Daly, who threw 68 of his 90 pitches for strikes.
“I was relaxed when I went out there with the lead. My fastball was my best pitch today on the inside and middle. The curveball wasn’t really working.
“I didn’t expect to come out and be 6-0 like this. But I’m definitely building a lot of confidence winning these games with my teammates.”
Clay started its offensive onslaught on the first pitch, when Eagles leadoff hitter Palmer Yenrick ripped a triple to right-center, then scored on Nick Walter’s RBI groundout.
After Mason Ensign singled to right with two outs in the first, Clay catcher Jon Quinlan hammered a two-run home run to left field for a 3-0 Eagles lead against Irish starter Parker Swartz.
Central got a run back in the bottom of the first, when sophomore shortstop led off with a single and advanced to second on a bobble by Clay center fielder Jack Winckowski.
Bowen then moved to third on Alex Heban’s flyout to right, and scored on Justin Schiets’ sacrifice fly to center to get the Irish within 3-1.
But Clay added three more runs on four hits in the third to go up 6-1.
Walter opened that rally by reaching on Bowen’s fielding error, then scoring on Christian Orr’s double that short-hopped the fence in left-center.
That hit made Orr Clay’s career hits leader at 112, and he would add another single in the fifth on a perfectly-placed bunt to the left side of the infield. His coach, Phillips, held the previous record of 111 for Clay (1999-2001).
“There’s been a lot of great players who have come through Clay, so to get that record was special,” Orr said. “I’ve been working for it, and it was great to get it.
“We’ve been swinging the bats well all year, and today it showed obviously. It was nice to see that. This year, we’ve had a big jump up in our Nos. 1-9 hitters, and that’s helped us stay in games and get wins like this.”
Although Orr was tagged out trying to stretch his double into a triple, Ensign followed with a single to left, and Quinlan walked to chase Swartz.
Joss Kiss delivered an RBI single to left off Irish reliever Schiets and, after Caynon Leathers (3-for-3) singled to load the bases, Quinlan scored on Winckowski’s fielder’s-choice grounder for a five-run Eagles lead.
The Irish used a walk to Schiets and two throwing errors by Yenrick at third to plate two runs in their half of the third.
But Clay kept applying the pressure, adding a run in the fifth, two more in the sixth and one in the seventh to extend its advantage to 10-3.
“They came out swinging the bat from pitch one of the game and throughout,” Irish coach Jeff Mielcarek said. “It was one of those days. They beat us. We didn’t beat ourselves. We tip our hat to Clay. They’re a good team, and we move on to the next game.”
After two were out in the bottom of the seventh, Central touched Daly for two runs.
Bowen walked, Heban singled, then Schiets drove them in with a double to center before Daly retired pinch-hitter Hagan Gardner on a groundout to end the game.
“Kyle has been tremendous for us the whole year,” Phillips said. “He’s our clear-cut No. 1. He was one out away from a no-hitter against Findlay, so on any given day he’s capable of running up the [strikeout] count and picking up a complete-game W for us. He’s done a great job this year.”
Clay's Kyle Daly pitches during Monday’s Three Rivers Athletic Conference game against Central Catholic. THE BLADE/LORI KING