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Play ball

Dragons test their mettle in Tampa against heavy hitters

  • Clinton pitching ace Harrison Shelton was on the mound for the Dragons’ home match- up against Cocke County on Monday night. The Dragons zapped the visiting Fighting Cocks 12-2. - Dwayne Wilder

  • Clinton’s Garrett Davis dives back to second base during Monday night’s home matchup against Cocke County. - Dwayne Wilder

After opening its 2024 season with a lopsided victory over Campbell County on Friday, March 8, the Clinton High School baseball team spent spring break in central Florida.

The Dragons played three of the nation’s top teams in Tampa and went 0-3 in the Sunshine State.

They began tournament play with a 10-8 loss to Salisbury, a top team from Connecticut.

Clinton (1-3) fell behind 10-0 in the top of the fifth inning, but didn’t give up.

The Dragons, instead, scored a run in the bottom of that frame and held Salisbury at bay and off the scoreboard the rest of the way.

And after a scoreless sixth, the Dragons nearly pulled off a comeback victory by tallying seven times in the bottom of the seventh and final frame.

Clinton nearly pulled up the miraculous comeback with the benefit of just one extra-base hit, a double by Isaiah Slaven, who went 1-for-5 and drove in two runs.

“Salisbury is a great team; I talked with their coach and they’re like a smaller version of (Chattanooga) Baylor,” Clinton Coach Rob Stacy said. “It’s a private school and it’s all boys.

“They had five Division I players already signed. Their third baseman is going to Vandy. They have a pitcher going to George Washington and two outfielders that are headed to Virginia.

“And they have a couple of younger guys who have committed to Vandy,” Stacy said.

In the tournament opener, Jayce Mack and Garrett Lee each collected a pair of hits. Lee had two RBIs and scored a run, while Mack drove in a run.

“We saw some good things,” Stacy said. “And it was family time, too. I wanted our kids to go to the beach and spend some time with their families and enjoy that while also playing a little baseball.”

In their second game, against Parrish, a top team from the Tampa area, the Dragons were shut out 10-0, and were held to just two hits.

Mack and J.P. Robbins had Clinton’s hits in the contest, which was played Wednesday.

“Parrish is a top local team down there and they’re a lot like Hardin Valley,” Stacy said.

The Dragons closed their stay in Florida with an 11-2 defeat at the hands of Manatee, the tournament co-host, which invited the Dragons to take part in this year’s event.

“They’re another good team,” Stacy said. “They’re like Central, and it was their coach who invited us to come.”

Lee and Dallas Beets each had two hits in the tournament finale for the Dragons. One of Lee’s hits was a double, and he drove in both of Clinton’s runs.