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Thursday, July 24, 2014

Clark, Squirrels roll past Bardwell

Sunday, July 10, 2011

(Photo)
Charleston Squirrels starter Bobby Clark recieves a handshake from head coach Michael Minner (center) and catcher Seth Childers (right) on Friday night after getting out of a jam in the fourth inning against Bardwell Ky., during the 1st Annual Woodpecker Classic wood bat tournament at Hillhouse Park in Charleston.
(Chris Pobst, Staff)
CHARLESTON -- Before this summer, recent Jackson High School graduate Bobby Clark knew nothing about the Charleston Fighting Squirrels Senior Babe Ruth baseball team.

"I had no idea," he said. "I never had even heard of them.

Shortly after graduating Clark had to make a choice of whether pursuing a football or baseball path while attending Southeast Missouri State University.

After choosing baseball, Clark got in touch with the head coach of the Charleston Squirrels, Michael Minner, and found out there was indeed a spot that he could fill to help him prepare for college ball.

Minner was glad to bring on the former Indian.

Clark lead the Squirrels to an 11-2 win while on the mound on Friday night over the Bardwell, Ky., Bats during the 1st Annual Woodpecker Classic woodbat baseball tournament at Hillhouse Park in Charleston.

"He's done a tremendous job," Minner said about Clark. "He's a battler and has been a great pickup for our team. He's been a quality kid. He's a quiet leader and he's a worker. He's successful because he makes himself successful."

Clark pitched an effective five innings while allowing just six hits. The two runs that crossed while he was on the mound were unearned.

"He worked ahead all night and threw his curveball for a strike," Minner added about Clark. "I think his velocity was probably as good as I've seen it all summer. We want all of our guys' velocity to be at it's best especially at this time of the year."

With the help of a few dazzling defensive plays behind him, Clark rolled through the first three innings. Squirrel shortstop Dalton Golightly did his best impression of a brick wall while not allowing much of anything get behind him.

He continually kept runners from advancing into scoring position with diving plays towards the holes which Clark, and his relief in the last two innings -- Josh Boese -- appreciated.

"That makes all the difference," Clark said about the stellar play of the defense that supported him. "Whenever you may get down on the mound there's a ball hit and you think it's a hit, but all of a sudden somebody lays out and makes a play. That will pick you up."

The only real trouble Clark faced was in the fourth and fifth innings.

Bardwell was able to capitalize on a bases loaded, misplayed single to right field off the bat of Chase Stephens which allowed both Jordan Fowler and Todd Adams to score the Bats' two runs of the game.

Clark coaxed a dribbler back to himself for the second out of the inning and caught the next better looking for the strikeout to end the first threat.

"He came up with some big pitches and made some pitches to get out of his jams," Minner said. "Unfortunately, they got two runs out of it but he just battled."

Although he managed to load the bases again in the fifth, Clark came out unscathed. With one out already recorded, an error and back-to-back singles from Clay Sweatman and Fowler put the Bats in prime position to add to their two runs and cut into the Squirrels' 6-2 advantage.

Clark, however, caught the next batter looking for one of his five strikeouts and then received a fly out to left field to end the inning.

After the fifth and registering 100 pitches, Clark's time on the mound was done. Boese pitched a final two innings and allowed just one baserunner.

"My arm felt really well," Clark said about pitching a full five innings. "It's probably the best it's felt all summer. I felt like I had good velocity. I would have liked to control my breaking stuff a little better, but, we played real solid in the field so, that always helps."

The Squirrels' offense made sure Clark had plenty of support along the way. Charleston sprayed 10 hits as a team. Clark and Jonathan Boone each had two singles.

"Our offense was where it needs to be," Minner said. "We put some balls in play and we had some hard hit balls. Overall, it was a good day at the plate for us."

Charleston scored one run in the second when Bryan Freed executed a squeeze play to perfection that scored Brandon Peters from third.

They also tacked on two runs in the third and three more in the fourth.

Mikey Russell scored the first run of the third off a wild pitch. Following three successive singles by Clark, Nathan Rodgers and Boone, Clark was pushed across following Boone's RBI single.

Three defensive errors by Bardwell gave the Squirrels three runs in the fourth.

Charleston pushed across five insurance runs in the top of the seventh inning as Bardwell struggled to find the strike zone giving the Squirrels three walks in the inning while Charleston added three hits to the mix.

"I feel like the year of playing tough teams is paying off and we're exactly where we need to be," Minner said. "(Bardwell) is a good club. They do things the right way and this was a good win for us."

With the Missouri Senior Babe Ruth State Tournament steadily approaching, Minner feels his team is ready after a summer filled with an abundance of playing time for all of his players and a steady rotation throughout his array of talented arms.

Continuing the Woodpecker Classic on Saturday, the Squirrels played the Jackson Sr. Babe Ruth squad and will kick the week off with Cape Girardeau Ford & Sons American Legion Post 63 on Monday. Thursday will be the first round of the state tournament.

"It's time to showcase what we've done all year and hopefully we can do what we want to do," Minner said. "I feel like we are ready and this has been a pretty special group. They've pulled for each other and, I may be wrong, but I'm expecting big things out of this group and it's been a fun summer.

"I feel pretty when our squad hits the field against anybody."

And now that Clark knows about the Squirrels and is part of their club, he thinks he made the right choice.

"I like all the guys," he said. "They're real nice guys and they play hard so, you can't ask for anything more than that."

Charleston 012 300 5 -- 11 10 2

Bardwell 000 200 0 -- 2 6 6

WP -- Bobby Clark. LP -- Lane Foster. 2B -- (B) Todd Adams.