Berry High School had just rallied to take a two-run lead over the Eagles in game 3 of their best-of-three playoff series.
“When I was out there in the outfield and we were down two runs I thought for a minute that we were done for sure,” the senior said. “I was thinking this could be my last game.
“Then we started hitting and everything was going our way.”
By then end of the game, Clark was in the middle of a wild celebration at first base following the Eagles’ come-from-behind 5-4 victory.
Sumiton Christian scored three runs in the bottom of the seventh inning to earn a spot in next week’s second round. The Eagles will host a double header against South Lamar next Friday.
Freshman Aaron Patterson played the role of hero for the Eagles.
Patterson went to the plate with the bases loaded and two outs in a 4-4 game. On a 1-2 count he hit a roller to the shortstop, who was unable to field the ball cleanly, allowing Austin Bice to score the game-winning run.
Sumiton Christian players stormed to greet Patterson at first base after the winning run scored.
“I was thinking I’ve got to hit it,” Patterson said of his at bat. “I hit it right to him and I was hoping he’d fumble it a bit. Thankfully he did. I was real excited, especially for the seniors.”
Sumiton Christian (18-10) scored its first two seventh-inning runs with no outs.
Down 4-2, Clark led off the bottom of the seventh inning with a double. Fellow senior Mikah Abbott followed with a single and Evan Love loaded the bases with no outs with a bunt single. Bice followed with a clutch single that scored both Clark and Abbott to notch the game at 4-4.
Love was thrown out at the plate on a failed squeeze attempt and Chandler Oates flew out to centerfield to set up Patterson’s at bat.
Abbott felt confident the Eagles would rally after a confidence boost from coach Lance Blair.
“When I was in the field, I was worried,” Abbott said. “When we got in the dugout, coach Blair got everybody together and I knew at that point we could come back because I know the type of team we are. We are good when we’re down.”
Tristan Alexander picked up the win on the mound. He allowed four runs — one earned — on nine hits. He didn’t walk a batter and struck out four.
“(Tristan) did a wonderful job,” Blair said. “He was probably in our top five pitchers to start the season. He proved he could throw strikes and throw a breaking pitch at any count. He doesn’t get rattled. It’s just a matter of him hitting his spots — and he did.”
Clark was 2 for 4 with a stolen base, two doubles and three runs, Bice was 1 for 4 with a run and two RBIs, Abbott was 1 for 2 with a run and an RBI, Oates and Spencer Black were both 1 for 3 and Patterson was 1 for 4.
Berry (10-9) took an early 1-0 lead in the first inning after scoring an unearned run.
Sumiton Christian notched the game in the bottom of the first after Clark doubled and came around to score.
The game remained tied until the bottom of the fifth when Clark reached on an error, stole second base, moved to third on a throwing error and scored on a fly ball off the bat of Abbott to put the Eagles up 2-1.
Berry bounced back in the top of the sixth, tying the game.
Dillon Lowery reached on a triple and scored on an error, making the score 2-2.
The Wildcats took the lead in the top of the seventh. Luke Sanford reached on an error, Weston Bonner singled and Tank Hollingsworth reached on an error, allowing Sanford to score.
Hollingsworth scored later in the inning on a Roman Alton sac fly for a 4-2 lead.
The deficit didn’t affect the Eagles.
“There was never a doubt in my mind that we could win that game right there. We’ve been down a few runs a couple of times this year. We have a lot of heart,” Abbott said.
Next up for the Eagles is a second-round series against a South Lamar team that has advanced to the fourth round each of the last two years.
South Lamar (17-8) advanced to the second round with an 8-3 win over Marion County in game three of their series on Saturday.
“Every round you play, the more confidence your kids get,” Blair said. “I like our chances. Why not? Somebody’s got to win it.”