By now, losses to Orange have followed a familiar pattern for Cedar Ridge baseball that is either cruel or amazing, depending on your perspective.

The Red Wolves bolt ahead, look strong through the middle innings, but their defensive falters late and the Panthers take advantage to ultimately win.

There were reasons to believe the string would end for Cedar Ridge on Tuesday night, Junior Quinn Finnegan not only shut out Orange’s offense for the opening four innings. He retired 12 straight batters on just 38 pitches.

Yet Orange would find a way again. Senior Ryan Honeycutt, making his third start since suffering a broken thumb playing basketball at Cedar Ridge in February, lined a double to left field to leadoff the fifth inning. Eventually, the Panthers would score nine runs in the sixth inning and go on to beat the Red Wolves 10-4 in front of a packed Red Wolves Field on the warmest day of 2024.

Orange starting pitcher Cross Clayton earned his 16th career win, despite trailing for most of his outing. Clayton struck out eight and is now 12-0 in his career against conference opponents. It was his fifth win against Cedar Ridge in five lifetime appearances.

It was Orange’s eleventh straight win over its crosstown rival. Orange (7-3, 3-1 in the Central Conference) now leads the Central Conference. The other five teams in the league are not in conference competition this week because of spring break.

The Red Wolves got off to a promising start. Designated hitter Kevin Jones sent a liner to right field for the game’s first hit with one out in the second inning. Grant McGuffey followed with a screamer to nearly the exact same spot at Jones’ icebreaker. Jones advanced to third following McGuffey’s double. Sophomore Aiden Ryan sent a 2-2 fastball to left field, where it landed in front of Kayden Bradsher. Jones scored and McGuffey followed to put the Red Wolves ahead. It could have easily been more after Landon Dalehite sent a cue shot that was thrown away by catcher Ryan Horton, advancing Ryan to third. Honeycutt caught a pop-up in foul ground in right field, and Clayton notched a strikeout to limit the Red Wolves lead to 2-0.

Finnegan, who came into the game 2-0 with one save, only ran up three balls to two Orange batters in the opening four innings, striking out three.

Honeycutt lined a double to left field to break up Finnegan’s perfect game to start the fifth. After Horton grounded out to Grant McGuffey at second base, Honeycutt moved over to third. Freshman Oliver Van Tiem belted a single to left field to cut the Red Wolves lead in half.

Through the first five innings, the Panthers didn’t force the Red Wolves into mistakes. That immediately changed in the sixth when Elijah Santos sent a hard grounder down the third base line. Santos took an extra base as Cedar Ridge had trouble getting the ball back in the infield. Bradsher sent a grounder to shortstop, which was bobbled, allowing Santos to beat out a throw to third. Wyatt Hedick laid down a bunt where Finnegan threw to second, where it was ruled that Bradsher beat it out on a disputed call. Santos scored the game-tying run. Centerfielder Cameron Guentensberger parked a deep fly ball beyond the reach of Dalehite in centerfield to score Bradsher and put the Panthers in the lead for good.

After Honeycutt walked, Horton drilled a low line drive to left field for another double, scoring Hedrick and Guentensberger. That lead to Finnegan being replaced on the mound. As Cedar Ridge coach Bryson Massey was on the hill, he heard something from several of the Orange reserves inside the dugout across the first base line that he didn’t like, which led to a verbal back-and-forth, Massey being ejected and both benches being warned by the home plate umpire.

Orange sent 14 batters to the plate in the sixth inning. Henry Hoffman walked with the bases-loaded, while Clayton and Hedrick were both hit by pitchers with the bases loaded to score runs.

Cedar Ridge freshman John Grove, who was making his third start as catcher, reached on a infield single in the seventh. Finnegan hammered a triple to right centerfield to score Grove, then scored the final run off a wild pitch.

The two-game series will continue at Orange High on Friday.

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