Clay enters the 2nd half of the season with high hopes

Yaneek Smith

Press Sports Editor

“There’s a lot of baseball to be played.”
That’s what Clay coach Jim Phillips said about the season, one that finds his Eagles in contention to win their third consecutive Three Rivers Athletic Conference title.
Clay is currently 9-5 and 5-1 in the conference.
“If you can get through half of the season and still have the goals in front of you, that’s a great feeling to have. There’s a lot of baseball to be played,” said Phillips. “I think there are four teams — St. John’s, St. Francis, Central Catholic and us — that all have one loss in the league. There’s a lot that’s still going to happen.”
If the Eagles are going to win another league title and make a run in the tournament, it will start with the rotation. Jared Hoersten is 3-0 with a 0.00 ERA and 32 strikeouts in 22.2 innings of work. Vinny Gallaher is 2-1 with a 3.06 ERA and 20 strikeouts in 16 innings. Anthony Barnes has done a good job out of the bullpen, going 2-0 with two saves and a 0.81 ERA and 30 strikeouts in 17.1 innings.
And C.J. Boudreaux, who was the TRAC Pitcher of the Year last season, recently returned to action after being out for the first half of the season.
“We knew this would be our strength, with C.J. in that group. If there’s a silver lining, he didn’t have a season-ending arm injury, so the rest of our staff got some meaningful innings,” said Phillips. “We hadn’t seen Barnes pitch in almost a year in a half. He’s been our de facto closer; he’s a guy that’s capable of starting, and we like him (in the bullpen) – he enjoys that closer role. I think, overall, our pitching staff has done what we thought it was capable of.”
Third baseman Alec Sutton is leading the way at the plate with a .395 batting average, seven RBIs and six runs; 1B Jase Kennedy is hitting .368 with six RBIs and 11 runs; SS Kale Wilkins is hitting .333 with 12 RBIs and six runs and catcher Brendan Hazuda has a .300 batting average with 10 RBIs.
Gallaher plays second base when he’s not pitching, Hoersten is the right fielder when he’s not pitching, Christian Mays is the center fielder and Ethan Stager is the left fielder.
Some of the most impressive victories came in April when the Eagles took down Whitmer (1-0) and St. Francis (4-1).
In the 11-inning win over the Panthers, Hoersten started and struck out 11 in five innings while Barnes pitched six innings with 10 strikeouts and got the win when Noah Schacht had the game’s only RBI when he drove in Kennedy.
In the win over the Knights, Hoersten pitched 5.1 innings, allowed one unearned run on three hits and struck out three. Barnes came on in the sixth innings with runners on the corners and one out and struck out the next two batters to get out of the jam. In the seventh, he struck out the side. Drake Sekinger had a two-run double and Sutton and Hazuda both had RBI doubles.
Last season, Clay had advanced to a Division I district semifinal and lost to Northview, 2-1. The Cougars won the rest of their games and claimed the state championship.
The state of the program is in good shape as the Eagles look to move to the Northern Lakes League in the fall. “I said this last year in our preview, I think we played the most difficult schedule in the 95-year history of our program, and I think the metrics would back that up. This year, it’s not much different. If we want to accomplish winning a district, getting to a final four, it’s not going to happen by playing teams that aren’t very good,” said Phillips. “You want to be playing your best during the latter part of the season and peaking at the right time. Northview finished fourth in the NLL and won the state championship (last year). We think we are prepared to meet our goals and we think we’ll be ready as the season winds down.”


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