by Dean Fox
FRANKLIN, Tenn. — The Clarksville Orioles 13s entered Saturday's pool play looking to reach the single-elimination tournament unblemished. Strong pitching and a couple of power displays ensured that happened.
Preston Rager threw five solid innings, and Lane Barger and Devin Otero both hit two-run home runs as the Orioles finished pool play with a 7-2 victory over the Franklin Bombers at Triple Crown’s Big South Regional Championship.
The Orioles, who had 10-9 and 12-2 wins on Friday, started quickly. They took the lead in the first inning when Gavin Dufault led off with a single, stole second and came home on Nick Ray's two-out single.
“This is our final tournament of the summer, and we’ve been able to peak at the right time,” Orioles coach Brian Story said. “Our pitching has been our best aspect this summer. We came out and threw strikes and got ahead of people, and we put ourselves in a position to win.”
The Orioles doubled the lead in the bottom of the third as Blake Butcher drew a lead-off walk, advanced on Dufault's single and scored on Preston Brooks' grounder.
The Bombers cut the lead to 2-1 in the fourth as Peyton Kirton, Josh Lambert, Garet Dean and Brody Walker all had singles. But Rager kept his team in the lead, coaxing an infield grounder for a forceout at home for the second out, then getting a strikeout to end the inning.
Barger homered in the bottom of the fourth, smacking a line drive over the center-field fence to make it 4-1.
Ben Chance scored in the top of the fifth when he stole third and came home on an error, cutting the Bombers' deficit to 4-2, but the Orioles took command in the bottom of the inning, getting an RBI double from Proctor and a two-run shot from Otero to make it 7-2.
“They got into ‘em, didn’t they?” Story said. “We have some power, but being 13, we play on a lot of high-school fields, and this is one of the smaller fields we’ve played on. We’ve hit some balls really well, but those are the first two we’ve been able to get out of the park.”
Rager finished with 80 pitches, allowing six hits, walking two and striking out three.
Kobi Knight came into pitch for the O's in the sixth and got a pair of strikeouts with the bases full of Bombers to wriggle out of a jam. Cade Steiner pitched the seventh.
The Orioles are in line for one of the top four seeds in Sunday's single-elim bracket; the title game is scheduled for 6 p.m.