Thursday night’s baseball game between host Union County (Lake Butler) and Gainesville High featured a matchup of two first-year head coaches.
Earlier this week, new GHS coach Adrian Ramos won his first game against P.K. Yonge.
It was Jiwan James’ turn last night.
A 6-run second inning gave the Class 1A Tigers (1-1) the momentum they needed in a 13-6 win against the Class 5A Hurricanes (1-1).
“A win is a win, I’ll take it,” said James. “I’m happy about the first one. I feel a little iffy about it.”
That’s because the Tigers committed five errors.
However, that was offset by their production at the plate as Union County pounded out 11 hits, including three doubles and two triples.
“We needed it tonight,” James said. “Tonight was a good time for it being that we kind of got a little rough on the defensive side.”
Senior right handed pitcher Trevon Lee kept the Hurricanes in check early, striking out five of the first nine batters that he faced.
“He set the tone for us, coming in and filling up the zone early in the game,” James said. “He missed a few spots in the fourth inning, and they scored a few runs, but for the most part he set the tone and we were able to carry on with the bats.”
After Gainesville starter Kellen Brown retired the side in order in the bottom of the first inning, the Tigers batted around in the second, taking advantage of three Gainesville errors, and building a commanding 6-0 lead.
Fort White transfer Tucker Hardee (2-for-4, 2 RBI, 2 runs) doubled to left field to start the inning and scored on a throwing error by freshman catcher Connor Kemph.
Junior Preston Bonsall’s infield hit plated a run to make it 2-0.
Then, with the bases loaded and nobody out, No. 9 hitter Devin Diggs had a sacrifice fly to center field to score Bonsall for a 3-0 lead.
The Tigers then broke the game open a bit on a 2-RBI double by senior center fielder Jerremy Miller.
The Keystone Heights transfer finished 3-for-4 with two doubles and five runs driven in.
“He had an awesome night at the plate,” James said. “It’s why he’s up there at the top of the order. He’s somebody who I thought could come in and help us. He’s really a great lead off guy. He has a great eye at the plate and tonight his bat came alive and that’s what we were looking for.”
A wild pitch brought home the sixth run of the inning.
“That’s huge,” James said. “Any time you can score some runs early. It allowed Trevon on the mound to kind of relax a little bit. You always want to play with a lead so taking advantage of those errors was big.”
Union County extended it to 9-0 in the bottom of the third on another error and a 2-run double by Miller.
It appeared as if the Tigers might end the game early via the 10-run mercy rule, but Gainesville didn’t quit.
The Hurricanes responded with four runs in the top of the fourth inning.
Junior Josh Morison led off with a double, and after Brown walked, senior Jesus Canizalez and senior Bennett Bruggeman had back-to-back RBI doubles.
Kemph singled in a run and senior Tyler Guarino finished off the scoring in the inning on a ground out to make it 9-4.
“We have done that already a couple of times,” Ramos said. “We know we have it, it’s eliminating and getting out of our own way on the defensive side. We’ve got to sharpen some things up. But we’ve got time.”
The Tigers kept the pressure on, scoring two more runs in the fourth and fifth innings, further distancing themselves late in the game.
“We’ve got to make sure not to get too high or too low,” Ramos said. “It’s a long season. The best way to do that is to stay even and operate from a place of stability. There were some learning moments in the game. It always felt like we were getting right to the hump but we couldn’t get over it, so we just need to be able to execute in the moments where we have set ourselves up for some success and we just need to cash in.”
Gainesville will travel to Oak Hall on Friday. The first pitch is at 4:15 p.m.
Union County, which only plays one 1A school all season, is at Lanier County (Lakeland, GA) at 6 p.m. on Friday.
P.K. Yonge 15, Williston 0
P.K. Yonge picked up its first victory on Thursday with a 15-0 win against visiting Williston.
The Blue Wave (1-2) scored one in the first inning and seven in the third and fourth innings to run-rule the Red Devils (0-1).
Seniors Lane Sparkman (3-run triple), Jacob Pridgen (2 singles, double, 4 RBI) and Ben Johnson (2-run single) led the Blue Wave offense in support of senior pitcher Aiden Mansfield (two hits over four innings, four strikeouts).
“It was a frustrating week in that we didn’t play like we are capable in losses at GHS on Monday and against Oak Hall here Tuesday,” PKY coach Rob Brunson said. “The team put it together at Williston’s expense.”
P.K. Yonge next hosts Interlachen at 7 p.m. Monday. Williston hosts Dunnellon on Friday at 6:30 p.m.