It has been a bumpy ride for the Clay baseball team at times this season, but the Eagles still have both of their main goals in front of them -- winning the Three Rivers Athletic Conference, and making a deep Division I tournament run.
Riding the right arm of junior pitching ace Jordan Grosjean, the Eagles (8-12) advanced to next week's district by taking a 7-3 win over Bowsher Wednesday night in a sectional final at Mercy Field.
"We were down and they could've gone in the tank," Clay coach Garry Isbell said of his team. "But we battled. The last four or five games we've been playing at a higher level. It's a good time of the season to start to get hot. We've got to keep the train moving."
Grosjean struck out 14 batters and walked just two in a complete-game four-hitter.
"When I start a game I want to throw the whole thing," said Grosjean, who threw 117 pitches. "I want to finish my own game.
"Coach was a little worried about my pitch count. He told me I had a certain amount in the seventh inning, and I went out there and threw under that, and we're moving on."
Clay will face St. John's Jesuit (14-5) in a district semifinal here next at 4:15 p.m. Thursday
Clay was held pretty much in check by Bowsher senior lefty Jake Almanza until sending 10 batters to the plate in a decisive five-run sixth inning.
The Eagles turned two singles, two doubles, two sacrifice bunts, two walks and two Bowsher errors into the five runs.
The big blows were two-run doubles by Lucas Robson and Grosjean.
Clay had taken a 1-0 lead in the second when Ross Achter drew a leadoff walk and later scored after a steal on a throwing error by Bowsher catcher Reid Puligandla.
The Rebels grabbed a 2-1 lead in the bottom of the fourth when Eagles catcher Ty McAtee returned the favor with his own throwing error on a bunt attempt. Bowsher's Ricky Cousino followed with a two-run single.
Until that fourth inning, Grosjean had pitched eight hitless, shutout innings with only one base runner in tourney play. He fired a five-inning no-hitter, allowing just one walk in the a 11-0 sectional semifinal win over Start.
"We didn't make some plays behind him today, which forced [Grosjean] to throw some extra pitches," Isbell said. "But, he did what he's been doing all year long. He had a great outing and very efficient."
"It was a tough night," Bowsher coach Lew Ackerman said. "Little errors. We had our momentum going. Almanza's our senior leader, and he comes after it. It was his game, and he had us there."
Bowsher (19-4) now turns its attention to next week's City League playoffs.
"We've already turned away from this game," Ackerman said. "We're the No. 2 seed and we host [a semifinal], so we're going after the next thing."
Titans top Indians
In the earlier sectional final, St. John's turned five Waite errors into eight unearned runs, including four in its five-run third inning, to win 10-0.
The Titans, who share first place in the TRAC with St. Francis, advanced in a game shortened to five innings by the mercy rule.
Waite pitcher Joshua Murphy also hurt his cause, walking five, hitting one batter, and committing two errors as the Indians dropped to 6-17.
"Their pitcher did a nice job," Titans coach Mike O'Reilly said. "He made good pitches, but we hit some ground balls and unfortunately they threw a couple away."
St. John's ace lefty, Jesse Adams, struck out six in his three innings of work and pushed his record to 7-1 with his 20th career victory.
Titans designated hitter Nate Pearson (2-for-3) ended the game with one out in the fifth with a single to right that scored Liam Allen.