The Nation Ford Falcons had been following what the Clover Blue Eagles’ baseball team had been doing this season and knew that they were in for a tough series.
Clover entered Monday’s game 8-4, including 2-1 in Region 3-5A play and had just come off a week in which they took two out of three games against perennial state power Northwestern. The Blue Eagles had to feel good about how their season started, and opened the first game against the Falcons with their top pitcher Jake Hylinski. Not even the pesky rain that was falling over Nation Ford Field on Monday night was going to dampen the mood of Clover and its faithful group of fans who showed up in bunches.
After a brief meeting and weather check with the umpires, Falcons coach Stas Swerdzewski and Clover coach Hank Wofford determined they needed to hit the field if they wanted to get this game in. Blue Eagles’ shortstop Chris Tribble started the fireworks early, lining Falcons’ ace Jeffery Maidhof’s first pitch into the left field corner with a double. It looked like the Blue Eagles were indeed what their record indicated. That’s where the drama ended.
Maidhof set down the next three Clover batters and then the Falcons came to bat. After center fielder Bradley Bott walked, shortstop and future North Carolina Tar Heel Tyler Causey sent a rocket ship to A.O. Jones Boulevard in right field to get the Falcons on the board 2-0. Although the two runs would seem to be enough, the Falcons tacked on seven more in the fourth inning to put the game out of reach. The Blue Eagles managed to get the margin down to 9-2 in the sixth inning before Falcons’ catcher Justin Lehman hit a three-run home run in the bottom of the sixth to end the game.
Maidhof went five innings to pick up his fourth win of the season, striking out six and walking one. Maidhof allowed his very first earned run of the season, but still kept his ERA at a dominant 0.23 for the season. Noah Petty, who started the game at third base for the Falcons, pitched one inning in relief to close out the game.
For Clover, Jake Hylinski had a rough outing, allowing eight runs and walking four, giving up seven hits, but striking out six Falcons. Causey paced the Falcons, falling just short of the cycle, going 3-for-4 with a home run, triple and double, and driving in four runs.
Right fielder Nathan Mahaffey and Petty also had two hits each for Nation Ford, who is now on a three-game winning streak at 8-5, and evening their Region 3-5A record at 2-2. Clover drops to 8-5 and 2-2 as well.
Game 2 will happen on Wednesday at 6pm at Clover High School.
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