DC drops league opener
After a shaky first inning by both teams, one team settled down. Unfortunately for Drew Central, that team wasn’t the Pirates.
Smackover plated six runs on seven singles in the top of the third inning to completely blow open a 2-2 tie, going on to defeat the Pirates 12-2 in five innings Tuesday at Drew Central field in the Class 3A, District 8 opener for both teams.
The first five Buckaroo batters in that decisive frame singled. After a fly ball out to right field, Smackover recorded two more singles. Pirate pitchers aided the cause with three wild pitches and Smackover stole a base. By the time Drew Central finally got out of that half inning, the Pirates trailed 8-2.
“Our pitchers right now are struggling having command and staying in the strike zone,” Drew Central coach Nick Kelnhofer said. “We’ve got to do a better job. We threw over 130 pitches between our two pitchers and their pitcher threw 78. You’ve got to be around the zone and good things are going to happen.”
Of the 13 hits Smackover got off Pirate pitching, 12 were singles. Drew Central didn’t give up an extra-base hit until the Buckaroos’ Tripp Evans roped an RBI double to straightaway center field in the fourth inning.
“I didn’t think they hammered the ball all over the field,” Kelnhofer said of Drew Central’s visitors. “They put it in play but they didn’t hit it all over the field. Our pitchers have got to pitch to contact. I told them, ‘Look, you’ve got seven people out there behind you.’ And we can’t give extra outs here and there.
“It was a lot closer than 12-2 and I think we’re a lot better than that score. There were some good things. Even at the plate, we didn’t strike out. We put the ball in play. I don’t think we’re real far away.”
After giving up two runs in the top of the first on a walk, two stolen bases and two singles, Drew Central promptly tied the score in the bottom of the inning.
Shortstop Aaron Goad singled to start the home half of the inning, he was sacrificed to second by left fielder Gage Gray and cut the Pirates’ deficit in half on a single by starting pitcher Tommy Wilmoth. Wilmoth advanced to second on Eamon Borse’s single, to third when Will Jackson walked to load the bases and scored the equalizer on a wild pitch.
Drew Central couldn’t plate any other runners, though, as Smackover starterJustin Haltom retired the next two batters on a pop-up on the infield and a strikeout. Those two outs were the first of 12 straight Pirate batters Haltom sat down.
The only other runner Smackover allowed to reach base was center fielder Chris Robinson, who was hit by a pitch with one out in the bottom of the fifth inning. The Buckaroos added one run in the fourth and three more in the fifth to end the game via the run rule when Drew Central could not score in the bottom of the fifth.
“I hated we had to play a conference game the first game coming back after spring break,” Kelnhofer said. “We’ve got McGehee on Thursday in conference and that’s a very winable game. We’ve just got to come out here, stay up and keep hitting the baseball. Be upbeat, stay behind each other and get after it. Play the game.”
For Drew Central, those three first-inning singles were all the Pirates could muster against Haltom. Defensively, the Pirates were solid, and turning two double plays.
The first stopped the Buckaroos’ scoring in the first inning. With the bases loaded, Evans scalded a grounder down the third-base line but Drew Central’s Nick Dodson speared the ball backhanded, stepped on third for a force out and threw to first to double up the Smackover batter.
The second double play also stopped a potential big inning for Smackover. With one run already across, Goad snagged as line drive at short and threw to first to get a Buckaroo runner who had wandered too far off the bag.
The loss dropped the Pirates to 4-6 for the season and 0-1 in 3A-8.