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Clover gets the best of T.L. Hanna in slugfest

Clover survived a bases-loaded threat in the bottom of the seventh inning Saturday to take a 10-9 victory over T.L. Hanna in the Class AAAA District IV Tournament.

The Blue Eagles won the see-saw battle as relievers Ryan Stollar and Stephen Niesley combined to hold the host Yellow Jackets to one run over the final three frames.

"It was up and down all day," Clover coach Darrell Van Dyke said. "Nobody could really relax. They swung the bat all day. We swung the bat all day. I'm extremely proud of our guys. It's easy to tank it. We've been struggling. I saw a lot of fight in us today."

Clover scored two in the first, but T.L. Hanna tied it with a pair of runs in its half of the inning. After the Yellow Jackets added a run in the second, Clover scored four runs in the third. Kris Thompson, Brian Allen, and Hayden Hendry all singled to start the at-bat, with Hendry's hit driving in Thompson. Hanna forced Allen at home, but Ben Pendleton singled to left to score Hendry. Travis Heffner and Chaztin Venezia came in on the same play as the ball got by the leftfielder.

In the fourth, Hendry singled again, then stole second. He moved to third on an error and scored on a wild pitch to give the Eagles a 7-3 lead.

That advantage evaporated in the bottom of the fourth, however, as Hanna struck for five runs on four hits. Tyler Ashworth drove in two with a double, and Causey Stanland's RBI single two batters later put the Yellow Jackets ahead 8-7.

Clover recaptured the lead in the sixth with three runs for a 10-8 lead. Thompson tied the game when Venezia walked with the bases loaded. Stollar - who had taken over as pitcher in the fourth - singled to bring home Allen and Heffner.

T.L. Hanna drew within a run in the sixth when Stollar walked Zack Jones, and Ashworth singled off of Niesley. The Blue Eagles would get out of the sixth without any other T.L. Hanna runs.

In the last of the seventh, the Yellow Jackets collected three singles around two outs. The third single came when the ball bounced off of Niesley's glove and away from Thompson at shortstop. Thompson dove on the ground to nab Ashworth's grounder up the middle. He reached over and touched second base for the force out to seal the win.

"What a job Niesley did coming in throwing strikes," Van Dyke said. "Stollar got the big hit to win the ball game, basically. He got the win (as pitcher)."

The victory marked another step of progress for the Clover baseball program.

"We've got eight seniors," Van Dyke said. "I've been here four years. They've been here four years. This 15th win is the most we've had in the four years. We just keep doing it, and we keep getting a little bit better. The seniors have made a good cornerstone for the program."

Clover next plays the loser of the Spring Valley-Byrnes game.

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