"It's been the same thing all year," Shives sighed with a sheepish smile in victory. "We have been struggling for leadership. No one brought the helmets. A high school coach is supposed to teach more than just baseball. You are trying to teach players to get ready for life."
Shives turned down the offer to take infield and to hit in South's cage before the game. He just wanted to get the game started.
"I told the coaches before the game, 'This could make us or break us,'" Shives said. "Everything else we've done hasn't been working. Let's try something different. I don't know if it worked but I think they were scared to death what was going to happen after the game."
The pregame was almost forgotten by the time the postgame came around.
Aron Mills got the Blazers started with a leadoff triple against Marcellus Sumlin, who was making his first varsity start. His hit was followed by a double by Scott Keeney, Brian Shifflett's single and consecutive doubles by Andrew Blickenstaff, Larry Hose and Tyler Shiffler for a 5-0 lead.
"I loaned them the helmets with the hits in them," South coach Ralph Stottlemyer said.
South (4-11, 4-10) answered, getting four of the runs back in the bottom of the first off Keeney. Lucas Lichtenberg keyed the rally with a two-run single and scored on the front end of a double steal with Joshua Dowler.
The game seemed to settle until Clear Spring broke it open by sending 12 hitters to the plate in a six-run fourth inning. Shifflett had a two-run single - his third of five hits for the game - off reliever Doug Palmer. Nathan Mills added an RBI double off Zach Bucher to help build an 11-4 lead.
Keeney settled in to keep South in check as he only allowed two more runs and five hits the rest of the way. Tim Leather led off the fourth with a triple and scored on Bucher's single, and singles by Dustin Stottlemyer and J.J. Myers produced South's last run in the fifth.
"It's tough to start five runs down, but when we got four back in the first, I said, 'We'll go now. We'll take this,'" Stottlemyer said. "They just kept pounding the ball. We didn't hold back on them. We gave them all we had and they just pounded the ball."
Clear Spring closed the scoring with two runs in the fifth.
Keeney pitched the complete game, allowing nine hits while striking out six. In the course of it all, the Blazers gave Shives a little relief and a sense of good things to come.
"We tried to put their backs firmly against the wall," Shives said. "I feel pretty good now about heading into the playoffs with them right now."