Following a single and three straight walks, Mark Twain was on the ropes.


In the top of the third inning, the Clopton Hawks had finally gotten to the Tigers’ starter Matthew Diffenderfer. After two scoreless innings, Clopton had loaded the bases with no outs. After Diffenderfer walked in a run — his third straight walk — to put the Hawks up 1-0.


Following a single and three straight walks, Mark Twain was on the ropes.

In the top of the third inning, the Clopton Hawks had finally gotten to the Tigers’ starter Matthew Diffenderfer. After two scoreless innings, Clopton had loaded the bases with no outs. After Diffenderfer walked in a run — his third straight walk — to put the Hawks up 1-0.

Mark Twain head coach Alan Koch went out to the mound to settle his young hurler. Whatever was said, worked. Diffenderfer settled down, struck out the next two batters and got a grounder for the third out to limit the damage.

In the bottom half of the third, the Tigers tied the game up at one. Two innings later, Mark Twain tacked on two more runs to take the late. Clopton had a chance to win the game in the top of the seventh, but Mark Twain held on for a season-opening win.

“Any time you can walk away in the first game with a win, it’s good,” Mark Twain head coach Alan Koch said.

Mark Twain got on the board thanks to a little help from Clopton starter Michael Yates. The Hawks’ pitcher beaned Mark Twain left fielder Jared Runyon to lead off the bottom half of third. After a balk sent Runyon to second, Skyler Jameson punched a hard-hit ball to the outfield to score Runyon.

The Tigers’ bats wouldn’t strike again until the fifth inning. With Yates tiring on the mound, Mark Twain struck. Again it was Runyon who got things going. The senior reached first on a single and then stole second. Jameson followed up Runyon’s hit with a walk. After Blake Thomure struck out, it was Austin Leake’s turn at the dish. Runyon and Jameson had each moved up a base after a wild pitch putting two men in scoring position for Leake — a high-pressure situation for the Tigers’ senior.

“I got up there and just made sure I was on time — that I wasn’t late,” Leake said.

The simple approach worked. Leake poked a single to send the two Tigers home.

“I was sitting on fastball hoping it was coming, and he gave it to me and I was able to drive it up the middle,” Leake said.

After a stolen base and an error by the Hawks’ catcher, Leake found himself on third. David Stark knocked him in with a single to put Mark Twain up 4-1.

The Tiger’s lead held until the top of the seventh inning. Thomure, pitching in relief of Diffenderfer, had shut down the Hawks for the three innings. In his fourth inning of work, Clopton began to chip away at Thomure.

Thomure allowed the first three Hawks to reach base, but settled down. Relying heavily on his fastball, Thomure minimized the damage and only allowed one run to score before forcing a groundout to first baseman Chris Pettitt to end the ball game.

Thomure picked up the win, going four innings, striking out five and allowing just one earned run.

He did it all with just one pitch working for him.

“My fastball — I couldn’t get my curve to break much,” Thomure said. “I was just trying to throw strikes and let my defense back it up.”

Mark Twain is now 1-0 with the win. With rain starting to fall as the final out was recorded, the Tigers were thankful to get the game in. In fact, Wednesday’s game was actually scheduled for Thursday, but with the forecast predicting rain the two teams pushed the game up a day.

“We’ve got a conference tournament on Saturday and there are some really good teams there,” Koch said. “We didn’t want to play our first game out there. I was glad that Clopton agreed to do this.”

Weather permitting, the Tigers’ next game will be at the CCC Tournament.