PADEN CITY - Struggling out of the gate with a 1-6 record, Cameron needed to get something going Monday afternoon when Coach Eric James and his Dragons traveled south into Wetzel County to battle Paden City.
Initially, it looked like a five-hit, six-run outburst in the opening frame might be just the ticket. However, while Cameron managed to record a victory, it needed a big effort from its big man on the mound to get it done.
The Dragons finished with just three runs and three hits over the final six innings, but senior Mark Walker took the hill in the third inning and slammed the door as the Dragons escaped with a 9-7 victory against the Wildcats at City Park.
Cameron wasted little time getting things going, getting leadoff singles from Cole Clutter and Levi Knight before a two-run double to deep left from starting pitcher Austin Pegg. After Devin Starcher was hit by a pitch, David Klug and Ryan Clutter both stroked run-scoring singles for a 4-0 score. Cameron added two more runs on an error and wild pitch.
But Paden City was not going away that easily. The Wildcats (5-4), who scored six two-out runs, got three back in the bottom of the first. Losing pitcher Craig Allen reached on a two-out error and scored on sophomore Zach Heasley's towering two-run homer to right field. Luke Cooper followed with a base hit and scored on Isaac Hall's bloop, hit-and-run, single to right-center to cut the deficit in half.
Run-scoring singles from Levi Meadows and Heasley in the second brought Paden City all the way back to within 6-5.
After the Dragons added a run on Jordan Hart's RBI single in the top of the third, Walker was called on to slow down Paden City and that is exactly what he did. The senior allowed three hits and two runs the rest of the way, fanning seven and walking one to pick up a victory.
Cameron added single runs in the fifth and seventh, both coming on sacrifice flies off the bat of Klug while the Wildcats did score in the fourth and seventh but were never able to catch up.
"I don't care who you are playing, when you get a six-run lead early you have to continue to battle and pound away to stay on top, and we didn't do that after the first inning," James said. "But credit Paden City, they have a very young team, but they are solid and they played hard and with a lot of heart the whole way.
"They gave us all we could handle and it took bringing our ace out of our back pocket to get it done. We don't have the record we want right now, but the kids have been putting the ball in play. I am more concerned with defense.
"There are probably 3 or 4 spots right now that I could lean one way or the other, but by week's end I hope to have the nine kids I want to go with, and I feel like when they come together as a team we will be all right. The schedule doesn't get any easier for us, but I think we will be fine when we get going."
Klug finished with a single and three RBI for the winners while Knights collected three base hits on the day. Heasley was a one-man wrecking crew with a single, home run and four runs knocked in for the Wildcats. Meadows added a single, two doubles and RBI in a losing effort.
"We are real young and played with six freshmen on the field (Monday)," Brent Croasmun said. "The maturity factor for us is a big deal. Sometimes the game starts and we are still trying to figure things out and not really fired up to play, and that is what happened in this one.
"But these kids kept battling, we just need to be more aggressive at the start of the game. It is the little things that can win or lose games, like stolen bases, sacrifice flies, walks, and we didn't do them (Monday) and Cameron did."