By Jeffery Armstrong
The Riverdale Raiders baseball team took advantage of North Clayton's generosity Monday night, defeating their big rivals 4-1 at Riverdale.
The North Clayton Eagles (0-1) committed four errors in two innings to allow the Raiders to turn a one-point lead into the 4-1 final margin. The game was well-pitched on both sides, but Riverdale hurler Alex Johnson got the best of North Clayton's Jamal Moreland.
Johnson pitched a complete game, scattering eight hits, striking out 11 and walking one. He was able to get key strikeouts and ground ball outs throughout the contest. In fact, Johnson struck out the side four times for Riverdale (1-1).
"I was ready to play today and I felt I could've had even more strikeouts," said Johnson, a sophomore. "It's outstanding to get our first win against North Clayton."
Moreland, a junior, was the hard-luck loser, giving up two earned runs in 5 1/3 innings, striking out four and walking two.
North Clayton got on the scoreboard first as left fielder Anthony Bowden singled, stole second and third bases and scored on a throwing error by Riverdale catcher Yante Newby for a 1-0 first-inning lead.
Riverdale came right back in the second inning. Center fielder Arnold Oakman was hit by a Moreland pitch and reached third on two wild pitches. First baseman Rafael Rojas walked and tried to steal second, forcing a throw from Eagles catcher Marcel Jones. As Rojas headed for second, Oakman broke for home. Eagles shortstop Shawn Christian cut the ball off and threw home for a play at the plate. Oakman and Eagles catcher Marcel Jones collided, but Jones dropped the ball, allowing Oakman to slide in safe.
Rojas smartly went to third on the throw home and scored on a groundout by Trey Hooks for the 2-1 Riverdale lead.
The score stayed that way for the next three innings as both pitchers gave their all. Both teams had rallies fall short, starting in the fifth inning. In that inning, Riverdale's Curt Wilson and Mike Flen (2-for-3) were on second and third with two outs, but Moreland coaxed a flyout to end the threat.
North Clayton's biggest opportunity to score again came in the top of the sixth. Dirk Engram and Bowden also reached second and third, this time with one out. But Johnson got a strikeout and then got Christian and Anthony Grissom to flyout to end the threat.
The Raiders put the game away in the bottom of the sixth. Oakman reached on an error and advanced to second on a groundout. Hooks walked and after a pitching change, Jones tried to pickoff Hooks at first base. The ball got away from the Eagles first baseman and both Oakman and Hooks scored for the 4-1 score. While North Clayton's defense failed Moreland, Riverdale's defense was sharp in the top of the seventh for Johnson.
North Clayton's Kevin Battle singled to left and tried to stretch it into a double. But Riverdale's Ricardo Merriweather made a perfect throw to second to get Battle out. The Raiders then got a pickoff play and a strikeout to end the game.
"I knew I had to hustle and get to that ball so the North Clayton runner wouldn't get to second," said Merriweather, a sophomore. "It was a pretty easy play on my part n it was routine."
Bowden went 2-for-3 for North Clayton; Oakman went 0-for-2, but he scored two runs. Oakman has scored five runs in six at-bats in Riverdale's two games.