Derek Clayton was on a mission for the Harlem High Bulldogs on Friday.
It was to beat the visiting Thomson Bulldogs and create a possible 3-AAA subregion showdown this week between Harlem and the Cross Creek Razorbacks.
The junior right-hander accomplished that goal, as Harlem won 5-1. Clayton went the distance, striking out four, walking two and yielding just four hits.
Clayton is 3-1 on the season. Harlem improved to 14-4 and 6-1 in subregion play. Thomson slipped to 14-6 overall and 4-3 in subregion.
"I tried to keep the ball low against Thomson, because I knew they were a pretty good-hitting ball team," Clayton said. "I thought my curve ball worked pretty well against them. And I can't say enough about our defense. Our defense played amazing."
This week will be a stern test for Harlem, as the Bulldogs play five games. Their biggest test looms against Cross Creek in Augusta on Friday at 5 p.m.
The Razorbacks remain undefeated in subregion play with a 7-0 record. They defeated the Bulldogs 9-2 when the teams met at Harlem.
"I'm glad we were able to get past Thomson, because they are a good ball club," Harlem coach Jimmie Lewis said. "As for this week, we've definitely got our work cut out for us. In a sense, we control our own destiny right now. My crowd has just got to understand that and come out and play good baseball."
In thinking ahead to the Cross Creek game later this week, Lewis said, "We've really got to hit the ball against them and play good sound defense if we're going to have a chance of winning against that crowd."
The loss to Harlem was Thomson's second of the season. Harlem won 5-3 the first time the teams met.
Harlem took a 2-0 lead against Thomson in the bottom of the second inning.
Clayton reached on a miscue by Thomson shortstop Nick Rau, a freshman. Catcher Aaron Rachels then bunted Clayton over to second base. Third baseman Mike Leverett then hit a fly ball that was dropped by left fielder Jake Unokur. It placed runners on second and third bases with just one out.
Thomson freshman pitcher Phillip Anderson then managed to get designated hitter Derek Beasley out on strikes. But Harlem center fielder Carlos Beard then lined a two-run single into center field.
Harlem scored another run in the third on a RBI single by Rachels, which allowed Wes Morris to score after earlier singling against Anderson.
Thomson's only run crossed the plate in the top of the fourth, making it a 3-1 game. Zach Washington, pinch running for Thomson senior catcher Weston Meehan, who went 3-for-3, tallied the lone run. The only other hit allowed by Clayton was to Thomson third baseman Cody Ewest.
Harlem scored a pair of insurance runs in the bottom of the fourth on RBI singles by Morris and Steven Waters.
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