OAKWOOD — Twenty-seven runs, 22 hits and seven errors; just what one would expect out of the first game of the 2011 baseball season.
After jumping out to a 5-1 lead in the first inning, the West Hall Spartans needed three different rallies to beat East Hall 15-12 on Tuesday in the season-opener for both teams.
“Last year when we gave up big innings, we’d hang our heads,” West Hall coach Pete Allen said. “I told the players that this was a different year, and I’m pleased with how they responded.”
Allen was especially pleased since a trio of freshmen came up big for the Spartans (1-0).
No hit was bigger than the one off the bat of Chandler Newton, who lined a two-out single in the bottom of the sixth to give West Hall a 15-12 lead. While Newton’s clutch hit gave West Hall some late insurance runs, the Spartans might not have been in the position to win without the play of freshman Zach English, who went 2-for-3 with two doubles, 3 RBIs and four runs scored. English’s second double of the night tied the game 8-8 in the bottom of the fifth, and his bases-loaded walk in the sixth tied the game at 12-12.
“We’re real excited about what we have coming up in the program,” said Allen, who also complemented the play of Cameron Johnson, who scored the game-winning run on a sacrifice fly by Jake Shirley. “They’re freshman, but they all have played a lot of sports in their lives and were not nervous about playing their first varsity game.”
The Vikings (0-1) showed nerves early in the game, allowing West Hall to score five runs in the bottom of the first. But pitcher Joseph Mat settled down after that, and when East Hall scored seven runs in the fourth, he was in line for the win.
“I’m really excited they didn’t give up,” East Hall coach Wesley Crow said. “I preached playing with a high intensity, and we did that tonight.”
East Hall scored its seven runs in the fourth on a walk, wild pitch, an RBI single from Caleb Kinsey, a two-run single by Cameron Davis, an error on a pick-off attempt, and a balk that gave it an 8-5 lead. Eleven Vikings batted in the fourth, which took more than 30 minutes and saw two pitching changes from West Hall.
English was the final pitcher to take the mound that inning, and the freshman held his own by striking out three and giving up four unearned runs before turning the game over to junior T.J. Williams with two outs in the top of the sixth.
Williams entered the game with the Spartans trailing by two after the Vikings regained the lead in the sixth thanks to a couple of errors by West Hall and a two-run double by Jon Smith. East Hall was led by Jonathan Woodring, who went 3-for-4 with three runs scored.
“We obviously weren’t very sound on defense,” Allen said.
But the Spartans overcame their defensive miscues by coming through with timely hits and patience at the plate.
Trailing by two in the bottom of the sixth, Williams hit a single to left that gave the Spartans runners on first and second with no outs. Three straight walks to Johnson, Taylor Waggoner and English tied the game at 12 and set up the game-winning sacrifice fly by Shirley, who finished 3-for-5 with a triple, two RBIs and three runs scored.
Williams secured the win by striking out the side in the top of the seventh.
These two teams meet again Thursday at East Hall Park, and while he wants for the same outcome, Allen is hoping the game will be played a little cleaner than Tuesday’s contest.
“I think both Wes and I want to see a much lower scoring game,” he said. “But we know the games between us are never boring, and Thursday should be another competitive contest.”