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By Dean Barker
The Stuarts Draft Diamondbacks held off the home Clover Hill Bucks in a 7-6 offensive battle on Monday, May 22. The game was the first of the 2023 campaign for both teams. With the win, the D-Backs moved to 1-0, while the Bucks started the season 0-1.
“It’s pretty big, (we have) a whole group of new guys, so it was a good game, everybody meshed together like they’re supposed to do,” Stuarts Draft head coach Les Sandridge said. “(We) picked each other up when we were supposed to, did what we had to do, so great job for the guys.”
Chandis Goff picked up the win for the D-Backs, pitching an inning and a third, giving up no runs on one walk with no hits and a strikeout. Trever Vernon started for Stuarts Draft and gave up three earned runs on two hits with a walk and three strikeouts in two and a third innings. Trevor Mitchell pitched two and two thirds innings, giving up two earned runs with two hits, two walks and a strikeout. Peter Shifflett pitched an inning, giving up one earned run on two hits with one walk and no strikeouts. Jacob Grabeel pitched two thirds innings, giving up one hit and one walk. Job Harrell got the save, throwing a 1-2-3 ninth with a strikeout.
“(I’m) really, really happy with our pitching tonight,” Sandridge said. “Got to see everybody kinda throw, and see where we’re at, so that was awesome.”
Will Waller took the loss for Clover Hill, giving up two earned runs on two hits with four walks and four strikeouts. Reid Long started on the bump for the Bucks, going five innings and giving up five earned runs on seven hits with a walk and eight strikeouts. Tyler Conley pitched the ninth, retiring the side with one strikeout.
Stuarts Draft jumped on the board early with an RBI infield single from Jacob Dunford in the second, driving in Nate Wayne, who doubled and took third on a wild pitch. They were back at it in the third; after Long struck out the first two, Calen Owens walked, Ryan Farris singled and stole second, making way for a two run RBI single to right from Lance Gowans to make it 3-0.
Not to be outdone, Clover Hill responded in the bottom half. With the bases loaded and one out, Lucas Clark singled to right to plate one. Lucas Shifflett was hit, and John Siciliano brought in two with an RBI single to give the Bucks a 4-3 lead, at which point Vernon was pulled for Mitchell. Shifflett stole third, Kyle Carlson was hit, and Koyce Quintanilla drove in the fifth run with a sacrifice fly to center field.
“I knew it wasn’t going to be a cake-walk, but like I said, guys held together, did what they were supposed to do, and got the job done,” Sandridge said.
With two outs in the top of the fourth, a fly ball from Landon Lightner was lost in the lights, which made way for an RBI double from Job Harrell. Caden Richter’s fly ball to center was also lost in the lights, driving in Harrell, but Richter was tagged out when he tried to stretch his double into a triple, ending the inning with a 5-5 tie.
Clark led off the bottom of the fifth with a walk, and reached second on a groundout, but Carlson’s would-be two run homer was robbed at the fence by center fielder Brady Ward.
Stuarts Draft took the lead back in the seventh, as leadoff walks to Richter and Owens were followed by a two-run double from Farris which would end up being the game winner.
“I went up there looking for something, I got it, and tried to stay back and hit it in the gap, not try to do too much with it,” Farris said.
The Bucks bats came back to life in the bottom half, as Clark walked and Shifflett singled to right, and both moved up 90 feet on a wild pitch. Siciliano drove in one with a single to left. It looked like the Bucks had tied the game after Carlson grounded to second, leading to a force out at second and a wild throw to first, but Carlson was called out due to a late slide into the shortstop from Siciliano, ending the inning at 7-6.
Clover Hill would threaten again in the eighth, as Conley walked and took second on a wild pitch with one out, at which point Draft went to the bullpen. Alex Knicely singled to left with a wild hop, and put runners on the corners. A grounder to shortstop from Kevin Kirk led to an out at the plate. Josh Eberly walked to load the bases, but Grabeel got Clark to fly out to left to end the inning. Both teams would go down 1-2-3 in the ninth to end the game.
Stuarts Draft had seven runs on nine hits with no errors and stranded six baserunners. Clover Hill had six runs on seven hits with no errors and seven left on base.
Ferris went 2-5 with two RBIs to lead the D-Backs. Gowans went 1-5 with two RBIs. Dunford was 1-2 with an RBI. Harrell and Richter were both 1-4 with an RBI. Lightner was 2-4. Wayne went 1-4.
For the Bucks, Siciliano went 2-5 with two RBIs to lead the way in defeat. Clark was 1-3 with an RBI. Shifflet went 1-4 with an RBI. Eberly went 1-4 with a walk. Quintanilla was 0-3 with an RBI. Knicely was 1-2 with two walks, and Kirk went 1-4.
The Bucks will look for their first win of the season when they host the Elkton Blue Sox on Wednesday, May 24 at 7:30 pm. Stuarts Draft will hope to stay undefeated when they visit the Grottoes Cardinals on Monday, May 29 at 7:30 pm. To reciprocate their opening night success throughout the season, Farris said doing the basics well will be key.
“We all want to win, so what it takes is playing fundamental baseball, and I think we did that tonight,” Farris said.
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