The Wootton Patriots varsity baseball team (10-6) dominated the Blake Bengals (5-13) 11-5 on Tuesday night at Blake High School.
For the Bengals, it was Senior Night and a pre-game ceremony was held to honor seniors including second baseman Brandon Watkins, centerfielder Shaun Lee, outfielder Eric Baten, catcher Chris Haley, pitcher Michael Griffin, and pitcher Kaeffan James.
“Senior Night is a special night…We make it very special. We have our play-by-play highlights of their season. We bring out their family. Everything’s family-oriented. We give the moms roses. We do corsages. Then the fathers get a ball inscripted with ‘Senior Night’ on it, and they throw out a first pitch; the first pitch ceremony to their son. So, Senior Night is something special. And I make it special because we are a family”, said Bengals head coach Steve Murfin. “We want to win the game. But we want the seniors to play and be in the spotlight.”
The Patriots jumped on the board earlier with two runs in the top of the first. The key hit a 2 RBI single by junior designated hitter Chris West (1-2, 2 RBI).
Two more runs came around to score to start the second inning, giving the Patriots a 4-0 lead.
The Bengals would get a run back on a sacrifice fly by freshman first baseman Zach Saunders (1-2, 2 RBI, bb) with Haley (3-4, 3 runs) scoring.
Saunders as a freshman is leading the Bengals in hitting this year. Haley, a senior, played every inning over his four seasons as the Bengals starting catcher.
In the top of the third inning and the Patriots up 4-1, the Patriots loaded the bases against the Bengals. The Bengals brought in James to pitch. James proceeded to get the Bengals out of the jam. The first out was a grounder to second that a force was made at home. Then a spectacular 4-6-3 double play completed the Patriots turn at bat with no runs.
Even Patriots head coach J.D. Marchand was impressed with James, saying, “He did a great job. Bases loaded. Nobody out and able to get a pop-up and a double play. Obviously, the percentages are in favor of getting a run there. So, he did a great job in that situation.”
Yet, in the fourth, the Patriots would strike again. This time, with one out, sophomore centerfielder Niko Jones hit a two-run homer. For Jones, it was his second home run of this season on the pitcher’s mound. The big blow made the score 6-1 Patriots.
Marchand said, “Niko’s been hitting the ball really well lately. Nice smooth swing. Got the ball out there and the ball kept flying. Good effort on his part.”
“On the pitch I just tried to stay up the middle and hit it opposite field. And so the pitch was inside and I just threw my hands inside and it went to left,” said Jones of his shot.
In the bottom of the sixth, the Patriots would score five more runs to take a commanding 11-2 lead.
“We just kept working the count. Their pitchers issued some walks. A couple times we got a full count and we kept working. A couple of foul balls. And those walks. And we had some key hits to keep the momentum going. I told them about ‘if the team scores, we got to answer. Get them back.’ And I think we did that nicely today.”
The key hit was junior pitchers Gabe Pollack (2-4, RBI, run).
Pollack who was the winning pitcher had an all-around game. He pitched the first four innings for the Patriots. Pollack won the game, while Griffin took the loss for the Bengals.
Pollack explained his evening offensive- and pitching-wise, saying, “I just got up there and was trying to be comfortable. Think hit the other way, up the middle. Ended up pulling one for a double. Also, in my last at bat, just staying through the ball got a hit the other way for a nice single…Honestly, I didn’t feel my best tonight (pitching). But sometimes you don’t always have your best stuff and you just got to go out there and put your best foot forward with what you have.”
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