By Doug Gorman
Sometimes it's a basketball game. Sometimes it's a football game.
Monday afternoon the venue was baseball, but one thing didn't change, the North Clayton Eagles and the Mt. Zion Bulldogs battled it out in a typical Clayton County tussle.
When the dust settled and North Clayton climbed back on the school bus to head home, it escaped with a 9-8 Region 4-AAAA victory.
With the win, North Clayton improved its record to 5-4 overall and 1-2 in Region 4-AAAA competition. Mt. Zion dropped to 6-5 overall and 1-2 in league play.
The Eagles did their offensive damage by scattering nine runs on nine hits and then holding off a Mt. Zion comeback attempt in the sixth inning.
Mt. Zion pushed eight runners across the plate on 10 hits to keep the game close.
Khalil Stinson picked up the victory for the Eagles, pitching 5 2/3 innings before running out of gas. Justin Brown came and pitched in relief for the Eagles, recording four strikeouts and allowing just one base runner over the final four outs of the game.
"They have gotten down on themselves in the previous games," said North Clayton coach Doug Henry. "So I told them when Mt. Zion had a couple of big innings that we just had to be tough, and that's what they did. We had to keep behind each other."
Mt. Zion took a an early 1-0 lead in the bottom of the second inning when Kelvin Almond singled to score Rummell Victor for the first run of the game.
North Clayton took the lead for good in the top of the third when it scored three times and grabbed a 3-1 after taking advantage of two Mt. Zion errors.
Bulldogs cut the lead to 3-2 in the bottom of the third when Marcus Threet hit a home run to the deepest part of the ball park. Sedrick Singletary gave chase, but crashed into the fence. After laying on the ground for a few minutes, he got back to his feet, but left the game with a shoulder injury.
North Clayton took a 6-2 lead in the fourth inning. The big blows for the Eagles came when Brandon Nicholson and Darrius Harper smacked back-to-back doubles. Nicholson's extra-base hit brought John Sumner around to score. Harper then ripped his double to score Nicholson as part of the three-run fourth inning.
Mt. Zion cut North Clayton's lead to 6-3 in the fourth inning when Victor led off the inning with a triple and scored on a wild pitch.
The Eagles added three more insurance runs in the fifth inning when Rashad Simpson, who entered the game for Singletary, and Nicholson each had back-to-back singles.
Both runners scored when Michael Kitchens ripped a triple.
Harper reached on a error in the inning and later added the final run of the game for the Eagles.
Mt. Zion whittled down the lead with a run in the fifth and four more in the sixth.
Williams' double in the fifth cut North Clayton lead to 9-4. The Bulldogs added more runs in the sixth before the Eagles pitched out of the inning.
Mt. Zion's Devante Lester contributed the biggest hit of the sixth inning for the Bulldogs when he ripped a triple to score both Myles Clark and Arnold.