KIMBERLY—The first lap has been taken in the race for Class 5A, Area 11 playoff position.
In a three-game set that was pushed back due to rainy conditions, the Corner baseball team swept the first two games from Mortimer Jordan, 6-3 on Friday night and 7-1 on Saturday afternoon, to secure the area win.
“We feel really good about the guys we have on the mound,” said Corner head coach Josh Hoyle. “As long as we don’t give freebies away and we play solid defense, we’re a good team, but we can be better.”
In the series opener on Friday night, the Yellow Jackets (10-1, 2-0) climbed back from two one-run deficits to bag a 6-3 home win. Colin Daniel checked in to pitch in the top of the seventh with the bases loaded and no outs in a 6-2 game. He started by walking in a run, but bounced back with three straight strikeouts to pin the tying run on first, and send Corner off with a 6-3 win.
Daniel also played a vital role at the plate, smacking in three runs on two hits for the Jackets. He tied the game at 1-1 in the bottom of the third with an RBI single up the middle, and broke at 2-2 tie in the fifth when he sent two runs across on his second single of the night.
Andrew Barker extended the lead to four runs in the sixth thanks to a two-run shot to left.
Mortimer Jordan (7-4, 0-2) scored the game’s first run in the third off a single from sophomore Austin Morris. The Blue Devils only managed three total hits and left 12 runners on base.
Tanner Hayes earned the win in five complete. He walked nine Mortimer Jordan batters, but allowed only two runs and two hits on Friday night.
In Game 2 on Saturday, Corner leaned on another strong start from Brayden Rowe. The senior righty went the distance in a 7-1 win, allowing one run on three hits and no walks. He finished with 13 strikeouts.
Rowe said he came out looking to challenge Mortimer Jordan batters with his fastball, but quickly changed his approach after falling behind 1-0 in the first inning.
“Coaches were telling me from the get-go to just challenge them with the fastball early on, just to prove that they can hit it and, in that first inning, they proved that they can hit it, so I really had to find my breaking ball and once I found it, it was smooth sailing from there,” said Rowe.
The Alabama signee struck out the side in the third and sixth innings, and fanned the final two outs of the game. He pointed to his 13 first-pitch strikes as a key to keeping his pitch count (91) down on Saturday.
“I’m glad I’ve got the defense I’ve got behind me, too, because they definitely were there to make the plays,” said Rowe.
Corner committed no errors while the Blue Devils finished with four errors, according to GameChanger.
"We always know that we have to play clean against Mortimer Jordan," said Hoyle. "I don't think we made an error and anytime you've got a pitcher that goes out and throws like Brayden [Rowe] does, you've got a really good shot."
Mortimer Jordan would, however, jump out to an early lead.
Dalton Meyers delivered with two outs in the first, punching an RBI single to the right side for an early 1-0 advantage. That would be their only run of the game.
That 1-0 lead held until the top of the fourth when Corner’s Colin Daniel reached on a throwing error that led to five Yellow Jacket runs. Tanner Hayes, Cole Burkett, Tyler McNiese and Rowe were each credited with RBIs in the fourth.
McNiese’s two-run single put Corner out front 4-1 and chased Blue Devils’ starter Brody Harris after 3 1/3 innings.
In the bottom of the fifth, Corner right fielder Andrew Baker stole a single from Garrett Pannell with a diving stab that was sandwiched between two more Rowe strikeouts.
The Yellow Jackets added a pair of insurance runs in the top of the seventh. McNiese and Baker were both hit by Griffin Busby pitches to end the scoring at 7-1.
“You always want to get the lead to five, that way one swing won’t beat you,” said Hoyle. “When you get a chance to add one late, it gives you that feeling that you’re going to be okay.”
For Corner, McNiese finished with three hits and as many RBIs to go with two hits and an RBI from Rowe.