When the No. 9 Clifton Cubs are playing their best baseball, few Class 3A teams have the manpower to stand in their way.
After reaching the state championship game last season, the Cubs have put together a juggernaut again as they finished off a two-game sweep of Cameron Yoe with a 6-1 win Saturday in the area playoffs at the WISD sports complex.
Saturday’s win came on the heels of Thursday’s 12-3 opening win over the Yoemen (16-14). The Cubs (25-5) have now won all four playoff games after they beat Mildred by 14-0 and 10-0 scores in bi-district.
Getting back to the state finals and winning this time has been on the Cubs’ minds since last year’s 5-4 loss to Beckville.
“That’s our goal since last year when we got beat,” Mason Brandenberger said. “Our goal is to go back and win. Last year was so heartbreaking, and we think we have the tools to do it again this year.”
Cameron grabbed a 1-0 lead in the top of the first as Jason Llanos opened the game with a single and scored on Alex Alonso’s double to deep center.
But the rest of the game belonged to Clifton as Brandenberger settled down and the offense gave the ace left-hander plenty of support.
Brandenberger only allowed an infield single the rest of the game as he finished with a three-hitter while walking four and striking out seven.
“That first inning I tried to do too much, but then I let my guys do what they’ve done all year,” Brandenberger said. “I threw strikes and let my defense work. I was spotting up well and my curveball was good and my fastball was popping. It all came together today.”
Getting solid offensive production throughout the lineup, the Cubs collected seven hits. Colby Caniford, the son of Clifton football coach Chuck Caniford, doubled and singled from the eighth spot in the batting order.
“His dad finally got him some glasses and it seemed to work out for him,” said Clifton baseball coach Brian Slater. “He had a great series. So hopefully he’ll keep those glasses going next week. We feel like we can get you one through nine. We just have a good hitting team and we feel in any part of the lineup someone can get a big hit for us, and that was true this weekend.”
In the bottom of the first, Cameron starting pitcher Anthony Layne hit Riley Perry with a pitch before walking Brandenberger. Perry scored the Cubs’ first run on Alfredo Rodriguez’s ground out.
The Cubs took a 2-1 lead in the second inning when Caniford singled and scored on Jackson Phillips’ single.
With a two-run third inning, the Cubs opened up a 4-1 edge. Mason Ochoa reached on a fielder’s choice and scored when Cameron third baseman Alonso was called for fielder’s interference following Brandon Ernst’s single. Caniford lashed a double to right field to score Ernst.
The Cubs added two more runs in the fourth as Phillips walked and scored on Perry’s triple to right field. Perry gave the Cubs a 6-1 lead when he scored on Alonso’s wild pitch.
“I thought we played some of our best games, and it seems like we’re peaking at the right time,” Slater said. “As a coach, that’s what you want when you get to May. You want to play your best and I feel like Cameron Yoe demanded that. If we didn’t play our best, Cameron Yoe was good enough to beat us.”