Clippers 12, Knights 9: Ball goes up, up and away all day

By The Columbus Dispatch  • 
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NEAL C. LAURON | DISPATCH
First baseman Cord Phelps led the Clippers offense with two home runs, his first of the season. Columbus homered four times on a tough day for both starting pitchers.

Clippers manager Chris Tremie watched the flight of first ball yesterday afternoon in Huntington Park and sensed the fireworks about to visit the game against the Charlotte Knights.

“The first batter — it was actually Blake Tekotte — hit a little fly ball to left field,” Tremie said. “Cedric (Hunter) came in a little bit and then drifted back and caught it just short of the warning track.”

He looked at pitching coach Tony Arnold and said without an uh-oh: “The ball is carrying today.” And it continued to do so to the tune of a 12-9 Clippers victory that offered a full day of fun for a season-best crowd of 9,485.

The Clippers led 7-0 after the first inning and were tied at 7 heading into the bottom of the third. Starting pitchers Joe Martinez of the Clippers and Andre Rienzo of the Knights felt like pair of zebras after taking a shortcut through the lion cage.

Cord Phelps led the Clippers offense with his first two home runs of the season and four RBI. Tim Fedroff collected four hits, including a leadoff home run in the first, and three RBI. Ryan Rohlinger also hit a home run for the Clippers.

That the Knights responded with home runs by Mike McDade and Seth Loman surprised nobody who has ever swung a bat in Huntington Park.

“The conditions were favorable to the hitter today,” Fedroff said. “The ball, if you got it up in the air a little bit, carried. When you’ve got those conditions in this park, no lead is really safe. We learned the hard way early on in this game.”

Presented with the 7-0 lead, the usually dependable Martinez simply couldn’t hold it. He allowed three runs in the second and back-to-back homers to McDade and Loman in the third that cut the deficit to 7-6.

When two Knights reached base later in the third, Tremie brought in David Huff (3-1) from the bullpen. The tying run scored on a fielder’s choice grounder.

The Clippers replied with four runs in the bottom of the inning to regain control, with Rohlinger and Phelps hitting back-to-back home runs. Huff struck out seven over four innings, including the side in a perfect eighth.

Huff knows the ballpark well — he has pitched parts of the past five seasons for the Clippers.

“There are always games like this,” he said. “I’ve noticed that hitters have trouble seeing at night so there aren’t as many runs scored at night. But in day games, with the sunlight, the ball is easier to see. You saw that today.”

His secret to success was no secret.

“Just keep the ball down,” Huff said, laughing. “I just threw it as hard as I could and kept the ball down.”

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