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Late rally helps North County defeat Clearwater

BONNE TERRE — In a game that featured excellent pitching and plenty of suspense, the North County Raiders manufactured three runs in the sixth inning to pull out a 4-1 victory over the Clearwater Tigers on Wednesday. The win was the eighth in a row for the Raiders and the third in three days.

Adam Howard had another solid performance on the mound, as he went the distance for North County. Howard allowed three hits and one walk in the game. The only run scored by Clearwater was unearned. Howard recorded six strikeouts, and retired the first 13 hitters he faced.

Tyler Rose was the losing pitcher for Clearwater, allowing nine hits and three walks, while striking out five North County hitters in six innings of work.

The Raiders got a leadoff triple from Alex Winters in the first inning. Winters remained at third base when Scott Hubbard reached on an error. Both runners were stranded and the game remained scoreless.

North County took a 1-0 lead in the second inning. Brandon Robinson led off with a single. Albert Cooley entered the game as a courtesy runner and advanced to second base on a wild pitch. Cooley scored when Pete Pasternak ripped a ground-rule double into left-center field. The Tigers turned a double play to avoid any further damage.

Clearwater nearly tied the game in the top of the fifth inning. Rocky Kingree singled with one out to break up Howard’s perfect game. The Tigers had runners at the corners with two out, but Howard picked up a crucial strikeout to end the inning. The Raiders put two runners on base in their half of the fifth, but also failed to score.

The Tigers broke through to tie the game in the sixth inning. Ryan Rainwater singled to left field with one out, and advanced to third base on a throwing error. Catcher Tyler Henson lifted a sacrifice fly to right field, allowing Rainwater to score.

North County quickly regained the lead in the bottom of the sixth inning, and used fundamental baseball to do it. Lucas Hulsey led off with a single into center field. Robinson drew a leadoff walk, and Pasternak reached on an error to load the bases.

Dan Braning executed a perfect bunt single on a squeeze play to put the Raiders ahead 2-1. Mike Cole followed with an RBI single to center, making it a 3-1 game.

The Raiders scored their fourth run on another squeeze play with Winters at the plate. The Clearwater defense failed to cover the first base bag, giving Winters his fourth hit of the day. Winters was the only player with multiple hits in the game.

North County now has a record of 20-3. The Raiders will play their last regular-season game this afternoon, when they travel to Cape Girardeau for a battle with Notre Dame.

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