HARRISON — The Cleveland Raiders were the first team to face what will likely become the main attraction of the Pounder Classic this weekend, when they took on the Key West Conchs at Central High School.
The Conchs, who are now 16-3, handed the Raiders a quick 12-2 loss that came to a close in the bottom of the fifth when the mercy rule was enacted.
Cleveland was facing an Everest-sized challenge from the get-go, as the Key West team has a roster that would pose a threat to even the best of local high school ball teams.
That roster includes a Florida State signee pitcher and pitchers who have committed to Vanderbilt and the University of Miami. Currently, the pitching staff has a 1.74 ERA.
Five players in the Conchs’ starting lineup are batting over .400, with a sixth player trailing just behind them at .390.
Key West started off the tournament with pitcher Jay Feathers, who despite having a 4.47 ERA is now 3-0 following Thursday’s victory.
The Raiders made things even harder on themselves by racking up a total of six errors and allowing the Conchs to score seven runs in the second inning alone.
“They (Key West) were solid, but its been the same thing all year for us. We gave them nine runs from six errors in the (first) and second inning and you can’t win a game like that. Out of the 12, only three came from actual runs,” Cleveland coach Ted Carson lamented.
Despite a paltry ending, Cleveland was able to get on the board first.
Jay McIntire started out the batting rotation for the Raiders as target practice, and was walked after being peppered by the Conchs’ pitcher.
Austin Dykes’ follow-up bunt gave Cleveland runners on first and second.
Starting pitcher Taylor Thompson reached first on a fielder’s choice, and advanced McIntire to third while Dykes was tagged out at second.
With only one out, catcher Hunter Oliver stepped up to the plate and knocked one into left field. Despite the ball being caught, the drive was enough to bring McIntire home.
The 1-0 lead was short lived, as Key West was able to score two runs in the bottom of the first.
Cleveland’s ‘fatal’ inning came immediately after, when seven runs scored by the Conchs left the boys in blue trailing 9-1 after two.
Shaky pitching by Key West benefited the Raiders in the top of the third, when they were able to get their second and final run.
After Conor Mitchell was walked, McIntire was put on after being clipped by another pitch from Feathers.
With one out, Thompson stepped up to the plate and blasted one into left field which was caught but was enough to bring in Mitchell.
Cleveland brought in left-hander Colin Tippett, who gave up no runs and struck out two in the next two innings, and finished the game with Austin Dykes on the mound.
In the bottom of the fifth, Key West was able to solidify its win by adding three more runs to the scoreboard.
“We’ve got to keep plugging away and working hard,” Carson declared. “They can do it; I think they’ve just hit a mental slump.”
Weather permitting, the Raiders will play Murray County, Ga. tonight at 8 p.m. and will play Chattanooga Central on Saturday at 1:30 and Clarksville at 6 p.m.
CONCHS 12, RAIDERS 2
Cleveland 101 00 — 2 2 6
Key West 270 03 — 12 8 0
WP: Jay Feathers 5 IP. LP: Taylor Thompson 2 IP. Records: Cleveland 3-10; Key West 16-3.