PORTAL — After three wild innings to open the game, Claxton finally settled down as it defeated Portal by a score of 20-12 Wednesday evening.
The two teams combined to score 27 runs over the first three innings — with Claxton holding a 15-12 lead — before Bishop Bullard, Chandler Jenkins and Michael Peel emerged from the Tiger bullpen to keep the Panthers off the scoreboard over the final four innings.
"I think that we showed up with the right focus," said Claxton coach Donny Sikes. "We got off to a good start, but we got a little complacent. We let Portal get right back into the game, but we were able to hold them off and get the win."
Rick Hall got things started for the Tigers with a single to lead off the first inning.
Hall eventually came around to score on a pair of errors and Bullard (2-for-4, 2 RBIs) doubled home Walt Rush and Peel for an early 3-0 lead.
Dalton DeLoach knocked in Bullard with a double of his own and came around to score on an RBI single by Jenkins. A double steal two batters later allowed Jenkins to swipe home and Hall knocked in two more with a single.
Peel single home Hall to cap the nine run outburst for Claxton.
"We were really swinging the bats well early," said Sikes. "I think that we caught Portal in between pitchers. They’ve had a rough and busy schedule early on, so they couldn’t give us their best look on the mound."
Tiger starter LeBron Glover allowed the first two Portal batters to reach base in the bootm of the first before leaving with an apparent injury and giving way to DeLoach.
Hunter Oglesby got the Panthers on the board with an RBI single and Rabon Hutchinson was hit to force in a run before Mitchell Duckworth brought home Nolan Clark with an RBI groundout to make it 9-3 after one inning.
Claxton rallied again with four hits and five runs off of Kyle Boggs in the second inning, but Portal answered right back once again.
Corey Walker got the scoring started with an RBI single and came home on a Tiger error.
Boggs helped his own cause with a two-out, two-run double and Lane Anderson provided another two-run hit to pull Portal within 14-10.
The Panthers clawed to a 15-12 margin before the Claxton bullpen finally took control.
Bullard pitched a perfect fourth inning before Jenkins worked out of jams in the fifth and sixth.
Peel struck out all three batters he faced in the seventh to end the ballgame.
"We used a few more pitchers than we wanted, but they got the job done," said Sikes.
An error, a sacrifice fly by Peel and an RBI walk by DeLoach offered up three insurance runs for the Tigers in the top of the final inning.
Mike Anthony can be reached at (912) 489-9404.