COUNTY WAR: Southwestern catcher Cory O’Neal tags out Madison’s Logan Kleopfer as Kleopfer tries to score (above) during Thursday’s game in Hanover. The Cubs’ Clark Vaughn struck out 10 in six innings to pick up the win. Southwestern coach Derik Hutton gathers his troops (below) during Madison’s rally in the second. The Cubs blew the game open late to win 12-5. (Staff photos by David Campbell)
COUNTY WAR: Southwestern catcher Cory O’Neal tags out Madison’s Logan Kleopfer as Kleopfer tries to score (above) during Thursday’s game in Hanover. The Cubs’ Clark Vaughn struck out 10 in six innings to pick up the win. Southwestern coach Derik Hutton gathers his troops (below) during Madison’s rally in the second. The Cubs blew the game open late to win 12-5. (Staff photos by David Campbell)
Madison scored seven runs early to take control and five runs late to pull away in a 12-5 baseball win over rival Southwestern Thursday in Hanover.

The Cubs hit Southwestern starter Darius Whitson-Spegal hard for seven runs in the first inning and two-thirds to go ahead 7-0.

But the Rebels battled back and trailed only 7-5 heading into the final inning before the Cubs scored five times to slam the door.

The win was Shannon Barger's first as Madison's coach but the first-year mentor wished it would have come a little easier.

"The first three innings I thought we played really well and Clark (Vaughn) dominated on the mound," Barger said. "After that I don't know if we got relaxed and thought that the hits would come and we would just get to 10. But give Southwestern credit. They battled. It says a lot about them. We came up with some big hits in the seventh and we needed it."

Madison (1-2) played the game without senior ace Ryan Thurston, who Barger said is sidelined with mononucleosis. As a result, Madison was forced to move its lineup around a bit.

It didn't seem to affect the Cubs much, especially early. Whitson-Spegal struck out the first batter of the game and after that, the wheels came off.

Logan Kleopfer lashed a one-out hit and Vaughn, Tanner Sauley and Ethan Leach hit back-to-back-to-back doubles. Derek Anderson then reached on an error and Madison led 2-0.

Southwestern (1-2) was fortunate to get out of the first with just two runs scored. But the Rebels were not as lucky in the second.

Whitson-Spegal got the first two outs before Xavier Barnes, Kleopfer and Vaughn reached on three-straight hits to push the lead to 4-0. An error on Sauley's grounder should have ended the inning but instead kept the Cubs going.

Leach followed with his second double in as many innings to push the margin to 6-0. Another error led to another run and a 7-0 Madison lead.

Southwestern coach Derik Hutton then turned to Brad Sims in relief and the righty answered the bell. After getting out of the inning, Sims only allowed three baserunners until the sixth, all of which were erased on the paths.

"We struggled a bit early. It's a big game for us but we also have to be more mentally tough than we showed," Hutton said. "I thought Brad Sims came in and pitched a great game. He's really been throwing well."

The early outburst staked Vaughn to a big lead and the junior took control. He did not allow a Southwestern hit until Cory O'Neal's single in the third and did not run into trouble until the sixth. Overall he struck out 10 without issuing a walk.

"Clark was flat dominant out there," Barger said. "He was spotting his fastball and he was keeping them off balance."

Vaughn began to tire in the fifth and Southwestern started to chip away. Adam Jackson reached on an infield single and Gage Hartman doubled to put two runners on base.

The Rebels then broke into the scoring column on an unusual play. O'Neal grounded sharply back to Vaughn on the mound for what should have been the third out. But Vaughn's soft toss to first base was wildly off-target and allowed Jackson to score.

Hartman was running on the same play and Madison first baseman Tyler Manaugh alertly threw home and catcher Kleopfer appeared to chase Hartman back to third. But at the last moment, Kleopfer threw down to third and his throw sailed into left field to allow the second run to score.

Vaughn forced Sims to ground out to end the inning but Southwestern went right back to work in the sixth. Whitson-Spegal led off the inning with an infield single and Mackenzy Withered followed with a single. An error allowed a run to score.

Jackson then shot a line-drive into center field to plate two more runs and all of a sudden it was a 7-5 game.

"We stayed in the game and we battled and that's great to see," Hutton said. "Unfortunately we weren't able to make the plays that we needed to make in the seventh."

Sims gave up a single to Anderson to open the Madison seventh and Hutton brought in Withered to keep the Cubs at bay. The move seemed to work when Withered struck out the first two batters he faced.

But back-to-back walks to Tucker Callis and Barnes loaded the bases and Kleopfer brought in two runs with his fourth hit of the game. An intentional walk to Vaughn loaded the bases again and Sauley responded with a two-run single of his own to blow open the game.

Leach then provided an RBI single to cap the scoring for the Cubs.

"Mackenzy started out well but Madison just got the hits when they needed," Hutton said. "They really played well in the seventh."

Anderson relieved Vaughn in the seventh and while he walked two batters, he also struck out three to end the game.

"It was nice to get those runs in the seventh considering that Southwestern had their big hitters coming up," Barger said. "It worked out well for Derek because he could just come in and pitch and work on things without the pressure."

Three different Cubs had at least three hits in the game led by Kleopfer who was 4-for-5 with a double, two RBIs and two runs scored. Sauley was 3-for-5 with three RBIs, a double and two runs and Leach was 3-for-5 with two doubles and four RBIs.

Vaughn was 2-for-3 with three runs scored and two RBIs and walked twice. He also scattered seven hits and just one unearned run over six innings.

Jackson and Hartman were both 2-for-3 for Southwestern. Whitson-Spegal took the loss after allowing four earned runs in an inning and a two-thirds with a walk and a strikeout.

Both teams return to action today with road games. Madison travels to Lawrenceburg while Southwestern heads to Silver Creek.