If Sam Berry wasn't hitting the ball, the ball seemed to be hitting him.
Twice Wednesday the Clay senior absorbed painful blows from an errant baseball -- once on the meat of his neck and later on the shin, where there's not much meat at all.
But Berry inflicted some damage also, especially when he drove in two runners as part of a defining eight-run second inning in Clay's 9-2 home win over Start.
With the win, Clay (11-6, 4-1) remains one game off the lead in the City League. Start, which stood atop the league standings entering the week, couldn't get much going offensively for the second straight game, falling to 11-7, 5-2.
Berry's double was the second of three for the Eagles that inning, all coming with zero outs. Like Berry, Lucas Robson, and Nick Sheehan drove their offerings to left field. Sheehan plated two runners, Robson one.
"If you have one player [come up big] it usually rubs off on a lot of players," Berry said.
A scary moment occurred in the top of the sixth when Start leftfielder Jesse Martin swung early on a pitch, driving it into Clay's dugout and off the side of Berry's neck. The impact of the ball knocked him to the dirt, although he was standing again soon thereafter.
"It felt like I got punched," said Berry, who saw a nearby teammate duck out of the way but didn't have enough time to do the same.
Berry was scheduled to bat second in the bottom half of the inning, and sure enough, he managed to stay in the game. Squaring to bunt, Berry took a pitch to the shin from Spartans' starter Austin Baker.
Instead of being Clay's designated hitter, Berry was the game's designated hittee.
"I think he had a magnet on him," Clay coach Gary Isbell said.
Starter Jordan Grosjean pitched five innings to earn the win, allowing one run, and striking out six. Isbell said his sophomore threw his breaking ball "a lot better today."
"He was getting ahead of hitters early and he was also throwing his change up down and in well today," Isbell said. "That's something he wasn't doing as well in his past outings, even though he had good outings."
Grosjean is the second pitcher to stymie Start's lineup this week, following St. John's Jesse Adams who shut out the Spartans on Monday.
Despite his team's brutal second inning, Start coach Jason Biniker never made a pitching change. Baker stayed on and allowed just two hits the rest of the way, although he walked two batters, and hit another in Berry.
Baker wasn't the only Spartan who struggled to get the team out of the second inning. A fielding error and a dropped third strike by the catcher turned things from bad to worse.
"[Clay] had the opportunity to get four or five outs that inning and they took advantage of it," Biniker said.
Start's Jake Cannon and Jesse Martin had RBI singles.
Contact Ryan Autullo at: email@example.com or 419-724-6160.