Claycutters win opener against reigning champions Exeter!
In spite of Storm Hannah bringing a lot of wind and rain in the days leading up to game day on Sunday. By the morning after an 8 am pitch inspection, everyone received a message from Head Coach, Paul Fullman, "The game is on!"
The Cornish Claycutters were hosting the 2018 SWBL Champions Exeter Spitfires, at their new home ground at Penair School in Truro. This was the opening game of the season for both teams and as such both teams were looking to make a statement.
The Claycutters had been working hard throughout the off-season with the help of newly appointed Head Coach Paul Fullman and this would be the first time we would see that hard work put to practice. Speaking to Paul Fullman before the game he said "I just want the team to go out there and have fun. We have our game plan and it's time to execute and make all the hard work through the winter pay off."
Claycutters Chairman and Captain of the team James Shaw was buzzing before the game, "I'm excited to start the season and show the rest of the league what we have been working on during the off-season."
The rain was constant through set up and warm ups. However, our infamous Cornish mizzle couldn't dampen our spirits. As we prepared to take the field for the first pitch the weather was kind to us and stopped raining.
Sporting our iconic Cornish black and gold colours the Claycutters took the field first. It is the rules of the game and tradition for the away side to bat first. So started our first inning at the new field in Truro.
The Claycutters started strong fielding a ground out from Exeters lead off man. A quick throw from Short Stop, Will Wagstaffe, to First Baseman, Ben Fullman, saw the first out of the inning. However, Exeter hit back by putting players on bases and bringing in three runs by the end of the inning. Pitcher, Nestor Gutierrez, finished the inning strong with two consecutive strikeouts. A shaky start to the Claycutters campaign but spirits were still high
Our first at bat saw an error from Exeters Third Baseman, which saw Centre Fielder, Tristan Jenkins, get on base. Tristan went on to steal up to third base and brought in our only run of the inning. The Champions defence held the Claycutters to three consecutive outs with an unassisted out at First, a good throw from Pitcher to First and a pop up catch from Exeters Short Stop.
Claycutters 1 - 3 Spitfires.
The Exeter Champs put a good batting lineup to start the 2nd Inning. Working through the lineup they managed to get on base six times through four walks and two hits. Scoring another three runs. The side was put out by a reaching catch by Second Baseman, James Shaw, another strikeout by Nestor and a force out at second. (Meaning the lead runner was tagged out at the base they were running to.)
The Claycutters stepped up to bat in the second with hope that they can eat into the five runs deficit that faced them. Starting off was our Pitcher, Nestor, who hit an impressive single straight up the middle. Will our Short Stop unfortunately hit a fly-ball into foul territory which was caught by the Exeters Pitcher. Rookie Right Fielder, Richard Price, got on base with a walk. Catcher, Marcus Reilly, struck out on a five pitch battle. Tristan got on base again with a hit to Exeters Third Baseman which went down as an error and Rookie Left Fielder, Mark Bannister, struck-out as the final out. Nestor stole home after a wild pitch. Exeters defence once again held strong holding the Claycutters to one run after a six at bat inning.
Claycutters 2 - 6 Spitfires.
Head Coach, Paul Fullman, was calm giving instructions to his players expecting nerves to settle and to start executing his game plan. They held Exeter to their first scoreless inning. Starting with the first at bat, Exeters Pitcher, hit a ball to our Third Baseman, Dan Kitts, who threw the out to First Baseman, Ben. We then held their only runner on first with a great catch by the Right Fielder, Richard, and another strikeout by Nestor.
Claycutters brought the heat to Exeter with an impressive third inning at bat starting with a solo home-run by Ben Fullman, his first ever in a competitive baseball game. Dan and James registered hits to get on base and saw their efforts rewarded with runs. Exeter did well in the second half of the inning stranding Nestor, Marcus and Tristan on the bases with three good strikeouts.
Claycutters 5 - 6 Spitfires.
Not to be outdone by the solo home-run, hit in the third by the Claycutters, the Spitfires First Baseman hit his own solo home-run at the top of the fourth inning. Refocused the Claycutters concentrated on ensuring the Spitfires didn't score anymore. Three quick outs with a throw from Catcher, Marcus to Ben at First Base, another strikeout from Nestor and another fly-ball catch from James Shaw at Second Base saw a quick turn around.
Now relaxed and trusting in their training and game preparation, we piled on the pressure to bring in a further six runs. The Claycutters registered hits from Ben, Dan, James, Richard, Marcus and Tristan to get them on first. Nestor and Will were both advanced to first with walks. The first out was forced by a shallow hit by Richard to Exeters pitcher who chose to throw to the catcher to get James Shaw out on the forced run. An unassisted out at First Base and a Strikeout saw the end of the fourth inning but the Claycutters put up an impressive six runs.
Claycutters 11 - 7 Spitfires.
The Claycutters, playing with confidence but constantly reminded to stick to the basics and concentrate by their Coach and keep the pressure on. Nestor started the inning perfectly with a strikeout but with an error from Short Stop, Will, the Spitfires got on base in their second at bat. A walk allowed the spitfires to put two on the bases. With an aggressive batting lineup the spitfires stole two bases meaning they had a player 90 feet away from scoring, however, that left first base free to intentionally walk their strongest batter who scored a home-run in his last at bat. With the bases loaded, the Claycutters put their off-season training to work and retired the side with a great diving catch by Third Baseman, Dan Kitts. We held Exeter to another scoreless inning.
Fatigued by the last innings amazing at bat. The Claycutters struggled with recording only two hits and scored only one run. Two groundouts and a ball caught in the foul area by Exeters Left Fielder meant the inning was over pretty quickly. James Shaw brought in the only run of the inning and Will was left stranded at second base.
Claycutters 12 - 7 Spitfires.
Exeter needed to get back into the game after their scoreless inning. At the top of the sixth they needed to get something going. However, the Clacycutters came out once again with their confidence high. A fly-ball catch by Richard, his second of the game, recorded the first out followed by a Strikeout which left the Claycutters searching for their last out of the inning. Exeter, however, dug deep and managed to put their next three batters on base and recorded another run for the game. The inning came to an end when Second Baseman, James, fielded a ground ball to Ben at First Base. Exeter recorded one hit, a walk and an error against Will at Short Stop.
Up to bat was Marcus Reilly who recorded his second hit of the game and went on to steal to third. Tristan struck-out on a count of two balls and three strikes and was followed by Mark with fly-ball to Exeters Third Baseman who caught him out. Up stepped Ben Fullman for his fifth at bat. A steady batting day for the First Baseman who with one man on base hits his second home-run of the day. Dan followed with a ground out throw from Exeters Catcher to First Baseman.
Claycutters 14 - 8 Spitfires.
We retired Exeter pretty quickly in the fifth inning. However, the seventh inning was even quicker for the Claycutters defence. Nestor trusted his fielders to do the job and with only three pitches the team got the Spitfires out in order. Two grounders which were fielded and thrown to First Base by Nestor and Will recorded two of the outs and then a solo catch from Will meant the Claycutters recorded their third scoreless inning.
However, Exeter being Champions responded with their own one-two-three out performance and held the Claycutters to a scoreless inning. The Spitfires changed their starting Pitcher for their Second Baseman and he took matters into his own hands by catching a fly-ball and then fielding the next two balls and throwing to their First Baseman for the outs. A Hitless and Scoreless inning meant both teams were going into the eighth with little time to rest.
Claycutters 14 - Spitfires 8.
Time was running out for the Exeter Spitfires to get back into the game. Only two innings left and they had to get players on base and try to bring in some runs. However, it didn't start off as Exeter had planned. A ground ball fielded by Catcher, Marcus, and thrown to First recorded the first out of the inning after the first pitch. Nestor struck out the second at bat meaning the Claycutters were only one out away from shutting out another inning. Exeter had different ideas though and pulled out an impressive at bat getting the next three on base. With the bases loaded they were in a position to try to get themselves back in the game. An impressive pitching display from Nestor meant that the third out came stranding the runners on the bases. Clacycutters recorded their fourth scoreless inning and things were not looking good for the Exeter Spitfires.
Picking up an injury, Left Fielder Mark Bannister was substituted for Marek Koziol. Richard Price started the Claycutters at bat and was grounded out from Exeters Second Baseman to First Base. Marcus forced an error from the Second Baseman with his at bat meaning he got on base. He then continued to steal the bases to record another run for the Claycutters. Meanwhile, Exeter stuck out Tristan for his second strikeout of the game. Marek recorded his one at bat and one hit recording a double. Ben Fullman stepped up for his sixth at bat of the game only to hit a grounder into the infield where Exeters Short Stop threw to their First Baseman leaving Marek stranded at Second Base.
Claycutters 15 - 8 Spitfires.
Exeter entered the last inning seven runs down and with the Claycutters holding them to scoreless innings in the Seventh and Eighth, they had a mountain to climb if they were going to get the win. This is baseball though and you never know, stranger things have happened in our beautiful game. Not this time though. The Claycutters put the side out in order with a strikeout and two fielded outs from Will and Nestor to Ben at First Base. The side was retired quickly and the game was over.
A lot of hard work over the off season paid off for the Claycutters. The team is still growing with interest from new players and businesses from around the local area. The team is on a high. "We're thankful for the hard work our Head Coach [Paul Fullman] has put into the team during the off season, it's nice to be able to pay it back with this win." Third Baseman, Dan Kitts, reflects on the win.
"Catching our opponents by surprise is a one time event, the cats out of the bag now " said Head Coach, Paul Fullman, "We've trained in all types of weather twice a week throughout the offseason. We couldn't do that without the support and commitment of everyone at the club. I'm proud of you all."
A special mention and congratulations to our two Umpires. Exeter couldn't supply a second field Umpire so our very own Second Baseman, Rob Camp, stepped up to help first-time Umpire, Kevin Brown. They did an amazing job and without their dedication to the game, we wouldn't have had a game. One for the blues, Booo! (It's a baseball thing.)
The team went on to celebrate at the County Arms, their official clubhouse. Everyone is buzzing from the win but now we have to concentrate on the next game against Taunton. The Claycutters will be training on Thursday at their home ground at Penair School and will be back taking the field on Sunday 5th May.