HOMERVILLE -- The defending Class A baseball champions will defend their title another week.
Clinch County swept its first-round playoff series with Dooly County Friday at Panther Field.
Cliff Corbitt's home run over the center field fence in the bottom of the ninth inning gave Clinch a 5-3 win in Game 1. The Panthers then punched their tickets to the second round with a 10-2 rout of Dooly in the second game.
"I'm speechless," said an excited Trent Hatton, Clinch's first-year head coach. "This is what we've done all year. We've found ways to win.
"We're going to the second round, and I'm just proud of these guys."
Clinch will host Schley County, which swept Long County 7-6, 7-4 Friday, in the second round, which begins Wednesday.
Clinch 5, Dooly 3
With the score tied, 3-3, Matt Dupree had led off the ninth with a single. Then Andrew Wehunt's first pitch hit Corbitt in the arm. But the umpire ruled that Corbitt stepped into the pitch, so he wasn't awarded first base. So Corbitt returned to the batter's box, and launched Wehunt's next pitch over the center field fence to end the game.
The game had been back-and-forth. Clinch took an early 2-0 lead, then Dooly tied the score, before going ahead 3-2 in the sixth. Clinch then tied the score in the seventh, before winning it in the ninth.
Early on, Clinch's top two hitters, Brett Denmark and Terron Skipper, provided Clinch's offense. In the first inning, Denmark walked, stole second, and scored on Skipper's single. In the third, Denmark reached on a two-base error, was wild pitched to third, and scored on Skipper's ground out, giving the Panthers a 2-0 lead.
But in the fourth, Dooly rallied. After Dooly's Rick Taylor escaped a rundown, and got back to third, Chase Fore and Chad Bryant lined consecutive RBI singles to tie the score, 2-2.
The score stayed 2-2 until the top of the sixth, when with two outs, Dooly's Jeff Clements walked and stole second. Fore singled him home to give Dooly a 3-2 lead.
Down going into the bottom of the seventh, Clinch responded. Corbitt and John Strickland opened with infield singles, then Scott Brown lined an opposite-field single to right, scoring Corbitt. The Panthers had a great chance to win the game, but Taylor caught Bradley Bennett's fly ball in left, and gunned down Strickland at the plate.
The game went into extra innings, then Corbitt ended it in the ninth. Corbitt (2-for-3) was the only Clinch batter with more than one hit.
"After I sent (Strickland) and he got thrown out at the plate, I told the team to pick me up," Hatton said. "Right away, Cliff said, 'I got you coach,' and then he went out and hit that homer."
Clinch left-hander Lee Douglas went the distance, holding Dooly to four hits and striking out 11.
Clinch 10, Dooly 2
The Panthers didn't need any heroics from Corbitt in game 2. All they needed was strong pitching from him, and the bats would do the rest.
Corbitt scattered seven hits, struck out three, and held Dooly to two runs, while the Clinch offense pounded out 16 hits and crossed the plate 10 times. Every starter had a hit.
"Cliff pitched great," Hatton said. "I thought he was outstanding. And we scored some runs for him. I thought we hit the ball real well."
The rout started in the first. With two outs, Douglas and Dupree's back-to-back doubles scored one run, then Corbitt followed with an RBI single, making it 2-0.
In the top of the third, with two outs, Brown singled home Dupree. Then Bennett beat out a chopper to short, and on the play, Corbitt came home from third, and Gordon Williams scored from second, making it 5-0.
Dooly got two runs back in the bottom of the third, thanks to two errors and two hits. But Denmark scored on a wild pitch in the fourth, making it 6-2. Dupree's two-out single in the sixth scored Les Bateson and made it 7-2.
Clinch put the game away in the top of the seventh with three final runs. After Strickland walked and Brown singled, Bennett lined a double into the left field corner, scoring both runs. Dooly reliever Chris Jackson uncorked two wild pitchers, scoring Bennett with Clinch's final run.
Dupree went 4-for-5 with two runs and two RBI. Bennett was 2-for-4 and had three RBI. Corbitt, Brown and Skipper also had two hits for the Panthers.
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