By MATTHEW CRESS
When it comes to the City Championship, the only certainty is the stakes. And the nerves.
It wasn’t enough to derail Providence on Tuesday, as the Pioneers got a solid performance from starting pitcher Sierra Collett, overcame five errors and averted a late rally to post an 8-7 victory over cross-town rival Clarksville.
The win marked the third consecutive year the Pioneers got to hoist the City Championship trophy.
“We love to beat these guys anytime we can,” said Providence coach Sean Payne. “You know, [Clarksville coach Hauber] Tim is a local legend and when I was a younger guy, he got me a lot, so it’s always nice to pay him back a little.”
Providence (6-3) put Clarksville in a corner with an 8-4 lead and the Generals down to their last three outs, but Hauber’s team nearly managed to turn the tables.
Clarksville (2-6) starter Bailey Sharp delivered an RBI single to score Kayla Wallace to make it 8-5, and a throwing error on the Pioneers put runners on second and third base with just one out. Third baseman Sierra Early made it 8-6 on a grounder, even though she was thrown out at first and Katie Wingler — named the Clarksville Most Valuable Player for the game — reached on another Providence error and the ensuing run made it 8-7.
With Wingler on second, that brought up freshman Kaitlyn Page representing the go-ahead run. She fell into an 0-2 hole and then Collett caught her with a change-up to end the rally and give the Pioneers the trophy.
“The kids battled all day,” Hauber said. “Page is a freshman, and I don’t know a lot of freshman who can stand in there against a changeup. We played pretty well.”
The Pioneers built their lead by scoring in each of the first four innings, with each of those bursts having one thing in common — free bases. Patience at the plate allowed Providence to draw nine walks from Sharp, and almost every one led to the Pioneer offense coming to life.
Marlee Karem’s lead-off walk in the first inning led to an RBI single from Jacquie Hornung to score Providence’s first run, and Lillian Hughes followed with a single to left field to score Hornung, tying the score at 2 after the Generals had struck first.
A walk drawn by Jaclyn Endris led to a Pioneer run in the third inning, when Sydney Milliner bunted her over to third. Endris then scored on a wild pitch from Sharp.
Providence managed two runs each in the third and fourth innings, with Hornung and Hughes scoring in the third — helped by a Clarksville error and Hughes getting an RBI after drawing a walk with the bases loaded in the fourth. The Pioneers plated another run in the fourth frame on a wild pitch to take a 6-4 lead.
“When Clarksville and Providence play it involves a lot of emotion and a little bit of talking and that leads to some mistakes,” Hauber said.
Clarksville took advantage of some of those mistakes to score twice in the third inning, where Sharp reached on a throwing error that also scored a run. That set up Wingler for an RBI triple down the third-base line that briefly put the Generals up 4-3 until the bottom half of the inning.
The Generals took a 2-0 lead in the top of the first after a two-RBI single by Early into shallow right field. That scored Megan Hall and Allie Sparkman, who reached on a bunt single and a walk, respectively.
Collett struck out seven Generals, including the side in the fourth inning. The senior walked just four hitters, hit one and yielded five hits in her final Town Championship game.
Sharp gave up six hits and struck out nine for Clarksville.
“We’ve started hitting the ball well and that’s carried over for a few games now,” Payne said. “Our defense disappointed us tonight, but that’s something we’ll keep working on.”
That work will continue when the Pioneers meet Switzerland County on Thursday. Clarksville will play Charlestown on Thursday.
PROVIDENCE 8, CLARKSVILLE 7
Clarksville 202 000 3—7 5 3
Providence 212 201 x—8 6 5
WP — Collett. LP — Sharp. 2B — Hughes (P). 3B — Wingler (C).
Record — Clarksville 2-6, Providence 6-3.