By Cassandra Swartz
The Gainesville Hurricanes traveled to Eastside Thursday night and went home with a dominant win over their county rivals.
It was a tale of two pitching staffs as one team excelled on the mound while the other gave up easy runs.The Canes started and ended the game hot on offense, scoring five runs in the top of the first inning, and another five in the top of the fifth to put up 10 for the night.
“Today we needed to start running early, get guys in motion and see what we can make happen,” said Gainesville head coach Chris Malphurs. “Our guys did a good job of that.”
Catcher Andrew Pickles led off for the Canes by dropping a single into center field. He stole second, advanced to third on an uncaught third strike for teammate Nate Kemph, and then made it home on a wild pitch for the first run of the night.
Kemph also stole second, then advanced to third on the wild pitch and made it home on a sacrifice fly by shortstop Colton Kelly to make it 2-0. The next two runs were batted in on a double by Myles Sheffield. Sheffield drove in Tyler Guarino, who drew a walk, and Israel Villa, who had hit his own double.
Carter Jones' single moved Sheffield to third base and a Jonathan Ramsey single brought him home for the final run of the first inning.The Canes moved seamlessly from offense to defense and immediately set the tone for a strong night from the bump. Starting pitcher Kemph threw two strikeouts in the bottom of the first to keep their lead heading to the second.
With two outs, Guarino and Villa hit back-to-back singles, but the Rams were able to get out of the jam without falling further behind.The second time up to bat, Eastside got a man to third but weren’t able to bring him home.
In Kemph’s two innings pitched on the night, he threw four strikeouts and allowed no hits. Both teams went three up, three down in the third inning.
Guarino replaced Kemph on the mound and tossed a strikeout of his own, while Kemph moved to fill the gap in centerfield. The Rams avoided more damage in the top of the fourth and headed to the bottom of the inning to face Gainesville’s third pitcher of the night, Andrew Pickles, who had started at catcher.
He opened with a strikeout to take the total to six among the staff so far for the game. Rams starting first baseman Maui Schwartz then reached first on an error and advanced to second on a wild pitch.
A walk and a hit batter loaded the bases for Eastside, but Pickles got the next batter to hit a grounder and the Canes forced Schwartz out at home to end the inning without any runs scored.
Gainesville’s offense picked back up again in the fifth inning, in part due to aggressive base-running, but also as a result of pitching miscues. Miles Archer, who had started the game in right field, came to the mound for the Rams to open the inning.
Villa dropped a single into shallow right to lead off, stole second, and went to third on a wild pitch to give the Canes a runner on third with no outs. Sheffield drew a walk before stealing second to put two men in scoring position, still with no outs.
Jesus Canizalez reached on a fielder’s choice that saw Sheffield get tagged out and Villa cross the plate to make it 6-0. Canes batters then drew back-to-back-to-back walks, allowing Canizalez to walk home and add another run.
After that trio of walks, Schwartz took over on the mound for Archer with the bases loaded and only one out. Schwartz fared no better, giving up back-to-back walks to put the Canes up 9-0. With the bases still loaded, he struck out Will Wittstruck, who had replaced Guarino in the order, for the second out.
Villa, in his fourth plate appearance of the night and second of the inning, drew the seventh walk of the inning to make it 10-0. Sheffield popped out to center to end the top half of the fifth.
Gainesville sent in Jack Herrbold off the bench to close out the game. With only three outs left to try to score and prevent a mercy rule, the Rams still couldn’t get a hit off of a Canes pitcher. Herrbold tossed a 1-2-3 inning to end the game, chipping in a strikeout of his own to bring the total of the night to seven.
Coach Malphurs was very pleased with the way his team performed, especially after a rough preseason.
“Tonight, the nerves were out, we played well, so I’m very happy with where we’re at.”
One of the offensive stars of the game, Villa, who finished 3-3 with two runs, gave credit to the defense after the game.
“I think we really did good defensively,” said Villa. “I’m just glad we got a lot of runs and [could] win the game.”
Eastside head coach Sean Dobbs outlined two things the Rams need to focus on moving forward—throwing strikes and choosing the right pitches to swing at.
“We’ve got to circle the wagons pitching-wise,” said Dobbs. “We fell behind way too many counts and weren’t able to battle back.”
The Rams travel to Hawthorne on Monday to try and get back in the win column. The Hurricanes aim to mirror tonight’s performance as they play three more away games, next week.
“It’s a good start,” said Coach Malphurs as he looked ahead to the rest of the season. “We’re 1-0. We’re happy. We’ve got to go get better tomorrow, though.”