Clutch hitting leads Oak Hall

The Oak Hall School baseball team is on a bit of roll.

On Monday afternoon, the host Eagles scored five runs with two outs in a 5-2 win against visiting Class 1A No. 3 Union County (Lake Butler).

It was the fifth straight win for Oak Hall (10-2), which split the two-game series against the Tigers, who defeated the Eagles in extra innings, 8-7, on April 4.

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Ethan Szlachetka had the game-winning hit in the bottom of the fifth for the Eagles after the visiting Tigers grabbed their first lead of the game.

Union County (10-8) took a 2-1 lead in the top of the fifth on a two RBI single by junior Trevon Lee.

Union County's Jake O'Steen (4) follows Quinten Rawls to go up 2-1

But in the Eagles’ half of the fifth, freshman catcher Brody Beaupre (2-for-3) singled, and sophomore Jackson Beach and junior Jack Kuzmicki walked to load the bases with two outs.

Szlachetka just missed a grand slam with a bases-clearing triple down the right field line for a 4-2 lead.

“I honestly thought that ball was getting out for a second,” the sophomore said with a laugh. “It was pretty close. It felt really good though.”

He also got the win on the mound, pitching 2.1 innings of scoreless relief.

“He’s a gamer,” said Oak Hall coach Kevin Maris. “Ethan goes at it in practice just like he does in games. You see him shagging fly balls and stuff, you’d think he was playing Game 7 of the World Series.”

“He’s very good at what he does, and he takes pride. He’s got a lot of energy and for him to come in and close like he does. I think that’s an awesome role for him to come in and do because that just gets his juices flowing and after the hit he had, it doesn’t get much better than that.”

Oak Hall's Troy Freeman pitching

Sophomore Troy Freeman set the tone early for Oak Hall, pitching 4.2 innings and allowing just four hits while striking out seven.

With runners at second and third in the top of the fifth, Szlachetka came in and got the final out. He also struck out the side in order in the sixth.

“We played really well today,” he said. “Our pitching came out of nowhere and started doing really well. All game, Troy was just dominating. It was such a good game for him.”

The Eagles also played error-free ball.

“I thought they played well,” Maris said. “When we had opportunities to put the bat on the ball and get some runs scored, we did what we needed to do at the plate and we had a couple of nice hits from Brody come up big and then Jackson Beach came up big with a double, and then with Ethan’s triple down the line, it helped put us over the top.”

“We just had some timely hitting which was nice. We’re never out of a game, in my opinion, the way we swing the bat and the way we defend and pitch.”

It was the second largest margin of defeat this season for the Tigers, who have played a very challenging schedule this season.

“We were pitching well enough,” said Union County baseball coach Travis Rimes. “We just had bad approaches at the plate. We were way out front and not sitting back to drive the ball. If we can get on, we’ve got speed, but we just had bad approaches at the plate and didn’t execute.”

Union County, which had won four of its previous five games, will travel to Bradford (Starke) on Thursday night at 6:30 p.m.

Oak Hall, which improved to 5-0 at home, hosts P.K. Yonge (Gainesville) at 4:15 p.m. on Friday.

“Tournament time is coming up right around the corner so we’re gearing up every game for that,” said Maris, whose team will host the 2A-District 4 tournament the first week of May.

Union County's Eli Rimes to third base top of fourth inning


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