5-run first inning helps Raiders win 10th straight vs. GHS

Santa Fe's Dylan Lovelace (helmet off) gets congratulated by teammates after hitting a two-run home run in the first inning against Gainesville.
Santa Fe's Dylan Lovelace (helmet off) gets congratulated by teammates after hitting a two-run home run in the first inning against Gainesville.
Photo by C.J. Gish

The streak continued for the Santa Fe baseball team.

On Thursday night in Alachua, the host Raiders scored five runs in the first inning and cruised to an 11-1 win in five innings against Gainesville High.

It was the 10th straight win in the series for the Raiders, who evened their record at 12-12.

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“I’m excited for our kids,” said Santa Fe coach Chris Malphurs. “We got to play everybody that was eligible. We played 17 guys tonight and 17 guys contributed in one way or another. These kids have been through a lot this year, and this was fun for them.”

The excitement began in the bottom of the first inning when Santa Fe sent 10 batters to the plate and scored five runs on four hits.

Santa Fe's Caleb Kietzman threw four innings and allowed no runs on just two hits with two walks and five strikeouts against Gainesville.
Photo by C.J. Gish Santa Fe’s Caleb Kietzman threw four innings and allowed no runs on just two hits with two walks and five strikeouts against Gainesville.

Sophomore Nate Robertson (1-for-2, RS) doubled to right center field off GHS starting pitcher Cade Dixon to start the inning and scored on a ground out to shortstop by junior Jackson McDavid (1-for-4, HR, 2 RBI, RS), who added a solo home run to right field in the fifth inning.

Following a double down the third base line by sophomore center fielder Angel Irizarry (1-for-2, RBI, 2 RS), Santa Fe College signee Dylan Lovelace (2-for-2, HR, 2 RBI, 2 RS) hit a two-run home run over the left field fence for what would prove to be the game-winning RBI and a 3-0 lead.

“He hit seven or eight in batting practice today,” Malphurs said. “His hitting group, all four of those guys, blistered the baseball at batting practice and I knew one of them was going to get one and two of them got one. He and Jackson McDavid put good swings on it.”

But the Raiders weren’t done.

Following a pair of walks and a fielder’s choice, Raiders’ starting pitcher Caleb Kietzman singled home two runs with a hit to right field and a 5-0 advantage.

“I went up there trying to sit and wait back on it but got a little antsy for it and hit it off the end there but still hit it where it needed to be hit to get two runs in there,” Kietzman said. “It kind of helped me out and kept me going to be able to keep pitching, create that big of a lead and go out there and pitch with confidence and let the team be behind you the whole time.”

Kietzman started the game on the mound, allowing a leadoff double to GHS sophomore Broc Tucker.

He settled down and retired the next nine batters he faced, including four straight strikeouts.

“He pitched great,” Malphurs said. “We couldn’t have scripted it any better going into next week. He threw 63 pitches, and we were able to give one of our younger guys out of the bullpen some work tonight. Caleb set the tone. We’re right where we want to be heading into next week.”

Santa Fe's Dylan Doria tags Gainesville's Broc Tucker out at third base in the top of the first inning.
Photo by C.J. Gish Santa Fe’s Dylan Doria tags Gainesville’s Broc Tucker out at third base in the top of the first inning.

The junior threw four innings and allowed no runs on just two hits with two walks and five strikeouts.

“I started off great,” said Kietzman, who improved to 5-1. “I commanded it really well. I pitched how I wanted to. And then one rough inning, I struggled around the strike zone…early on I had good defensive plays where they put the ball in play and my defense backed me up.”

The Raiders, who finished with 13 hits, added three more in the second inning, including a two-run double by junior catcher Tyler Whitworth.

Sophomore Jackson Ruppert threw one inning in relief and allowed an unearned run on one hit.

GHS (7-15), which managed just three hits in the game, will play Columbia (Lake City) in Tuesday’s Class 5A-District 2 semifinals.

Meanwhile, the win helped the Raiders, who started the season 0-3 and 2-6, get to .500 for the first time heading into the postseason.

Santa Fe, which earned the No. 1 seed in 4A-District 4, will host No. 4 seed Eastside at 7 p.m. on Tuesday in the district semifinals.

“We’ve been chasing our tail all year long,” Malphurs said. “We’ve been chasing to get back even all year long. We’re 12-12, hoping that we can get a winning record for the first time this year (next week). The kids are resilient. They’ve worked their tail off and I just told them in the locker room we’re right where we want to be.”

Santa Fe's Jackson Ruppert scores in the first inning against Gainesville to put the Raiders up 4-0.
Photo by C.J. Gish Santa Fe’s Jackson Ruppert scores in the first inning against Gainesville to put the Raiders up 4-0.

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