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Upstart Clinton hands Walton first division loss

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Walton rolled into Clinton last week as the last unbeaten team in the AAA Northwestern Division. But after enduring a 14-hit attack by the Governors — paced by two-RBI performances from Joel Olivo Rodriguez and Osvaldo Reyes — the Wildcats left with their first conference loss of the season as Clinton rolled to an impressive 8-4 home win.

“We were riding a two-game winning streak, so we’re playing well and we felt good about today,” Clinton head coach Matthew Keller said. “We felt confident, we felt good, and it feels great to come away with this win.”

For Governors’ infielder Christian Melo, beating Walton serves as a statement to the rest of the league.

“It feels great to beat an undefeated team,” he said. “They had a lot of hype behind them, so we had to cut them down a little bit and show them that we are the underdogs of the division.”

The Governors secured their lead in the top of the third inning with consecutive run-scoring base hits by Reyes, Gabriel Guilarte Zapata and Michael Gurez to take an early 3-1 advantage. Clinton’s robust offensive performance continued into the fifth when the Governors pushed three more runs across the plate.

Olivo Rodriguez drilled an RBI single to center, Gerez scored on a wild pitch, and Usher Valdez smacked a run-scoring double that knocked in Olivo Rodriguez as the Governors took a commanding 6-1 lead. Not even undefeated Walton — make that previously undefeated Walton — could overcome that deficit.

Clinton starting pitcher Jeffry Pena was dominant on the hill as well. Pena pitched four innings, surrendering just three earned runs while allowing three hits and striking out seven in picking up his second victory of the season.

“I had a lot of confidence today,” Pena said. “I trusted my defense, and the whole diamond had my back.”

Pena’s strong performance was the key to the Governors’ victory, Keller added.

Pena received ample offensive support as well from Derek Prensa, Diwarly Dilsa Bido. Zapata, Gurez and Olivo Rodriguez all finished with two hits apiece.

In order to keep winning, Melo urges the importance of fundamentals and unity.

“We need to keep swinging the bat how we’ve been swinging it, keep pitching well, and we have to keep hustling,” he said. “It takes all of us to be together so that we could come through as one. I feel like we did well today, and we need to keep doing that.”

A key to Clinton’s success is playing as a team, Pena said, not as individuals.

“It’s all about being a family and staying humble,” he said. “There is never an ‘I’ in ‘team.’”

The Governors are poised to make a spirited postseason push as they currently trail only Walton (5-1) and George Washington (7-2). 

Of their eight remaining games, there are no more matchups against Washington, although the Governors and Trojans split their two games this season. Clinton does have one game remaining with Walton in the form of its regular-season finale May 17 at home, a contest that could have all kinds of playoff implications. 

Yet the Governors are not looking that far ahead right now, opting instead for a more focused approach.

“We’re not looking towards the playoffs yet,” Keller said. “We have a few more games left in the regular season, and we’re taking it one day at a time. We’ll see what happens. 

“If we make the playoffs, that’s great. But we’re going to take it one game at a time, and we’re always looking forward to tomorrow.”

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