After two good innings defensively, the wheels came off in a hurry Friday night for Clay County Post 2, which gave up 13 third-inning runs to Sullivan and lost 14-0 in the first game of the American Legion baseball regional at Don Jennings Field.

“We had a couple errors, and a couple walks and [Sullivan] had some timely hits,” Clay County manager Eric France said after the game, “and at that point, we had to coach to the pitch count.”

“It worked out perfectly,” said Sullivan manager Tony Steimel, who was doing the same thing but from the opposite perspective. “We pulled [starter] Alex [Cooks] with 45 [pitches], so he’s available Sunday [for potential championship-bracket games]. And Braedon [Nichols] and Cory [Anderson] are our next two and they were both under 30, so they’re available [today].”

The start of the game didn’t give a clue about its outcome. Clay County pitcher Kade Roembke faced just six batters and needed only 18 pitches to get through the first two innings and he and his teammates turned two soft liners into double plays.

Cooks, on the other hand, had to pitch around three outfield errors and had used almost twice as many pitches as the game stayed 0-0 going into the third.

It didn’t stay that way long. Nichols drew a leadoff walk, Jacob Cox’s nicely placed sacrifice bunt was thrown away and a fielder’s choice grounder by Logan Burris broke the tie.

Cam Walters also bunted, this one for a hit, and a walk and a hit batter made it 2-0.

Isaac Lane drove in two runs with a double and Max Mize got two more RBI with a single, and it was 6-0. Thus Benjamin Goshen, who won’t be available today anyway, took one for the team; his earned-run average didn’t suffer, thanks to another error behind him, but Sullivan wound up sending 17 batters to the plate.

Every member of Post 139’s lineup scored at least once in the third inning and Lane added a bases-loaded triple on his way to a 4-for-4 night. Eli Steimel also had three hits, including a double.

“Give credit to Sullivan. You give a good team extra chances and they’re going to take advantage,” France said. “But the positive is we’ll have our whole staff available Sunday.”

Ancient sportswriter that hates the 21st Century.