Top-10 Stories of 2022: No. 9 1A North Clay Captures First Ever State Title

By: Diego Solares
Area Scout, Illinois & Missouri

North Clay capped a dominant and historic 33-win season at the 1A classification with the school’s first ever baseball state championship. Led by a heavy bunch of seniors, the Cardinals cruised through their opposition at Dozier Park, defeating LeRoy 15-2 in five innings before taking down Brown County in the title game 12-4.

Several players served key roles in the Cardinals’ championship run. Bryton Griffy paced the team in batting average (.416) across 101 at-bats, including 13 extra-base hits, and he brought home 41 runs while scoring 41 times, too. Seven other North Clay players batted over .320 in 100+ plate appearances, including Brady Ingram and Holden Clifton. Ingram led the Cardinal offense with 45 RBIs, while Clifton’s 18 extra-base hits led the way. Clifton also turned in 27 quality innings on the mound, punching out 36 batters and walking only six.

Besides Clifton, who took the ball in the state championship game and thrived, North Clay was led by Donnie Zimmerman and Carson Burkett on the bump. Zimmerman served as the staff ace, pitching to a perfect 10-0 record and 1.28 ERA across 60 innings. Burkett walked just seven batters and punched out 44 over his 53 innings of work, logging a 2.91 ERA as a result. Aside from his .360 batting average, Collyn Ballard posted a 1.47 ERA in 19 innings of work for the Cardinals, while the aforementioned Griffy pitched to a 1.24 mark across his 17 frames, punching out 29 batters, too.

Below you’ll find our game story from the Cardinals’ special victory in June.


By: Drew Locascio
Illinois Scouting Director 

In the first state championship game of 2022, North Clay took down Brown County by a score of 12-4. North Clay jumped out to an early 5-1 lead after two innings and never looked back.

Both teams were hot offensively throughout the game but it was a couple of big innings that broke the game open for the Cardinals of North Clay. With the game tied 1-1 in the second inning, two-run singles by Collyn Ballard and Holden Clifton helped North Clay get out to a 5-1 lead.

Brown County chipped away with single runs in the third and fifth to cut the lead to 5-3 after five innings. Sam Carr doubled to lead off the third and Gabe Blakely knocked him in with a ground ball to right field. Ethan Howell delivered the RBI in the fifth with a base knock to right field for Brown County. 

That's as close as Brown County would get however as North Clay answered with three runs in the top half of the sixth and four more in the top of the seventh.

The big hit of the seventh came off the bat of junior shortstop Logan Fleener. Fleener lined a single into the left-center field gap, which scored two runs.

Senior RHP Holden Clifton came on in relief and struck out six in five innings of work for the Cardinals, scattering five hits and two runs. 

The State Title was the first state title in the history of North Clay athletics. 


+ Collyn Ballard (North Clay): 1-for-4, 3 RBI, 2 R, SB
+ Logan Fleener (North Clay: 2-for-4, 2 RBI, R, BB, SB
+ Holden Clifton (North Clay): 1-for-4, 3 RBI; 5 IP, 5 H, 2 R, 2 BB, 6 K
+ Sam Carr (Brown County): 3-for-4, 2 R, 2B
+ Mason Henry (Brown County): 3-for-3, 2 R, RBI, 2B
+ Will Groesch (Brown County): 2-for-4
+ Ethan Howell (Brown County): 2-for-4, RBI