By Cassandra Swartz
Keystone Heights traveled to Santa Fe Monday afternoon looking for the upset, but left with a 4-0 loss as the Raiders extended their win streak to nine games.
“We know we’re starting to get a little bit of a bullseye on our back and that’s fine,” said Santa Fe head coach Travis Yeckring. “We’re just going to come out and be the same team we’ve been since day one.”
Through the first two-and-a-half innings, it was looking like the Indians might have the edge. They put runners on the corners in the top of the first and got men on base in the following two innings, as well. Over that stretch, Raiders pitcher Zane Starling tossed five strikeouts to get his team out oftrouble each time.
Evan Andrews got the nod on the mound for the visitors and kept the home team quiet through the first two innings. The bottom of the first and second were 1-2-3 innings for the Indians defense, including three strikeouts from Andrews.
Ryan Brown came to the plate for the Raiders in the bottom of the third and got things going with a leadoff single followed by a steal. After another Andrews’ strikeout, Starling laid down a sacrifice grounder to move Brown to third. With two outs, Santa Fe sliced three straight singles to take a 2-0 lead.
Dalton Dampier hit the initial single that scored Brown, and then Devante Mitchum added one to put runners on the corners. Greg Falck drove the third single to score Dampier and pad the lead. The top of the fourth was a quick 1-2-3 inning, and Starling added another strikeout to his tally.
Landon Rogers drew a walk to open the bottom of the fourth before stealing second. Brown and Matthew Geelhoedhit back-to-back textbook bunts to load the bases with only one out. Starling came through for the Raiders with another sacrifice grounder, this one scoring Rogers to make it a three-run game.
The Indians got their third and final hit of the game in the fifth as Mike Moreland lined his second single of the afternoon. He made it to second, and Jeremy Miller also reached base, but both were left stranded. After a leadoff walk to Devante Mitchum in the fifth, Andrews’ day was done for Keystone Heights.
He was replaced on the mound by Cole Cumbus who opened his effort with a strikeout. Devante Mitchum advanced to second on a balk, and then crossed the plate on an error from the Indians first baseman to make it 4-0.
Santa Fe almost added another run in the bottom of the sixth, but Devan Mitchum was called out at the plate after driving a leadoff double and trying to score on a Starling bunt. The top of the sixth and seventh were both 1-2-3 innings for the Raiders, and Starling added three more strikeouts to help keep the shutout intact.
Starling shone for Santa Fe on both sides of the ball. He threw a complete game, giving up only three hits and striking out nine. Over the plate, he added a bunt and an RBI. “We definitely played scrappy today,” said Starling after the win. “It wasn’t our best day at the plate, but we played excellent in the field.”
Brown was a big contributor, reaching base twice–on a single and a bunt –and adding a steal and a run.
“I’ve seen us do better, but I’d still run with us,” said Brown. “We’re going to go a long way.”
Dampier remaineda consistent piece of the offense as he had an RBI-single, a steal and a run. The Raiders improved to 10-1on the season. Their sole loss came in the second game of the season against a Lake City-Columbia team they have since beat.
The Indians fell to 6-6 and will host a rematch on Wednesday. In the wake of Monday’s win, Yeckring spoke about the identity of his team.
“We’re going to throw strikes, we’re going to play good defense, and then we’ll just get in there and compete in the box and find a way to score enough runs to win."