Oak Hall Eagles Soar To Sixth Straight Win And Complete Season Sweep Of P.K. Yonge

Baseball is a game of highs and lows. In one moment, your team can be in full control of a game at the plate and on the mound. Seconds later, one big play from your opponent can completely reverse that momentum. This unpredictable nature of the game was on full display in Oak Hall’s matchup with the P.K. Yonge Blue Wave on Friday.

In a game that featured multiple lead changes and plenty of action for both teams, the Eagles emerged victorious. A late-game offensive surge and stellar pitching in the final inning lifted the Eagles to an 8-6 victory. Oak Hall improved to 11-2 on the season with Friday’s win.

Neil Ruth and Jack Kuzmicki both played major roles in the Eagles’ takeover as the game went on. Ruth went 4-for-4 at the plate on the day while driving in three runs. Kuzmicki secured two singles and a double, scoring three runs in the process. He also snagged an RBI of his own in the fifth inning. Troy Freeman knocked out two doubles, including a ground rule double that drove in two runs for the Eagles.

Jack Kuzmicki throws out a pitch in the early innings of Oak Hall’s victory against P.K. Yonge on Friday.

Kuzmicki got the start on the mound for Oak Hall. In four innings pitched, he gave up four hits, three runs and three walks while striking out two batters. Ethan Szlachetka took over in the fifth inning and ended up grabbing his fourth win on the season. Szlachetka pitched for three innings and only allowed one hit, three runs (zero earned runs) and four walks. He also racked up five strikeouts.

Both Teams Grapple For Control At The Start

In the first meeting between the Eagles and Blue Wave earlier this season, both squads got out to hot starts offensively. However, on Friday afternoon, the pitchers controlled the pace of the game in the early innings. The Eagles sat down the Blue Wave’s leadoff batter with a pop out on the first pitch of the game. Despite a single and a walk in the subsequent two at-bats, Kuzmicki and the Eagles defense secured two consecutive outs via a line out and a fly out. P.K. Yonge’s runners were left on first and second base.

Oak Hall got off to a promising start in the batter’s box. After the Blue Wave walked Harrison Beach, Kuzmicki blasted a double into right field to give the Eagles runners on second and third. However, the Blue Wave struck back with two consecutive outs of their own to strand Oak Hall’s runners.

The second inning swiftly came and went for both sides. After picking up two quick outs to start off the inning, the Blue Wave landed a man on first via a walk. However, despite the runner making it to second on a stolen base, Kuzmicki sat down the following batter on strikes to finish off the inning.

The Eagles did not fare much better than the Blue Wave in the bottom of the inning. Ruth started off with a ground ball single into right field. However, the Eagles struck out in two of their next three plate appearances; the other at-bat ended with a ground out to the second baseman. After two innings of play, the score remained 0-0.

Freeman Cracks The Game Open In The Third Inning

The Blue Wave still struggled to get anything going on offense in the top of the third inning. Two ground outs and a fly out kept them off the board. While the Eagles failed to make any noise in their turns at the plate in the first two innings, that dry spell would soon come to an end. The Eagles had two outs in their first two at-bats of the inning, but they persisted at the plate.

Neil Ruth waits for the pitch over at third base.

Kuzmicki picked up a single off a ground ball into left field. Szlachetka was walked in the following at-bat. Both runners advanced a base following a wild pitch from P.K. Yonge’s pitcher. The Eagles were now one well-hit ball away from taking the lead. Then Troy Freeman stepped to the plate.

Freeman has come through for the Eagles in big moments like these all year long. With 16 RBIs and six extra-base hits this season, he has proven himself as a major threat at the plate with runners on base. Freeman only further confirmed that with a line drive deep into right field to bring Kuzmicki and Szlachetka home. The Eagles had jumped out to their first lead of the day.

“Whenever I’m in that situation, I always know it’s my job to get those people home,” Freeman said. “As the fifth hitter in the lineup, I have to hit those guys home, or else we’re not gonna get any runs.”

Freeman scored on the following play. A hard-hit ground ball by Ruth allowed Freeman to make it from second base all the way to home plate. By the time the Blue Wave picked up their third out, the Eagles had extended their lead to 3-0.

The Blue Wave Respond In The Fourth And Fifth Innings

While the Eagles’ offense had found their footing, it did not take long for the Blue Wave to tighten the game back up. P.K. Yonge started off the inning with two singles and one walk, loading the bases early on with no outs. Oak Hall almost made it out of the inning with no damage inflicted on the scoreboard. Kuzmicki sat down a batter on strikes. Brody Beaupre tagged a runner out at home in the following at-bat on a fielder’s choice.

Troy Freeman keeps an eye on P.K. Yonge’s runner at third base during the fifth inning.

However, the Eagles were unable to get their third out in time. A single for P.K. Yonge’s Kyrin Griffith drove in two runs for the Blue Wave. The following batter hit a fly out to center field, but Oak Hall’s lead had now been cut down to one run.

The bottom of the fourth inning did not help Oak Hall get any momentum back. P.K. Yonge’s pitcher sat down all three batters on strikes to finish off the inning. Soon after that, the Blue Wave capitalized on multiple defensive miscues from the Eagles. Despite recording no hits in the fifth inning, the Blue Wave scored two runs off of three walks and an error.

Midway through the fifth inning, the Blue Wave had taken a 4-3 lead. Oak Hall now faced their first deficit of the afternoon. Eagles coach Kevin Maris acknowledged that the team struggled defensively in the middle innings, but also praised them for being able to rally down the stretch.

“For some reason, we came out [and] we were speeding up the game in our head a little bit,” Maris said. “We made some careless defensive plays, a little more than we’re used to making. We’ve been playing solid, and we were due for a game like that. Luckily, the guys persevered and worked through the adversities they had.”

Kuzmicki Ties It And Ruth Takes The Lead

It did not take long for the Eagles to answer back with some offensive firepower of their own. Harrison Beach reached third base after knocking a ball into right field that the Blue Wave outfield was unable to track down. With a runner already in scoring position and no outs on the board, Kuzmicki had a chance to put the Eagles back on track. And that he did.

On the first pitch he saw, Kuzmicki hit a hard ground ball over to the Blue Wave shortstop. Beach easily made his way home, while Kuzmicki made it on base with P.K. Yonge’s first baseman failing to secure the throw to the bag.

“In a game like this, it’s a lot more emotional… As a hitter, I try to not give into that,” Kuzmicki said. “I stay in my own lane and stay competitive.”

Szlachetka followed this up with a bunt that allowed Kuzmicki to advance to third. Szlachetka initially made it to first base on the single, but he managed to immediately steal second following some confusion from the Blue Wave infield. Two at-bats later, Ruth stepped into the batter’s box with two runners in scoring position and a tie ball game.

Already at 2-for-2 on the day, Ruth kept his offensive hot streak going. After just two pitches, he knocked a ball into left field that allowed Kuzmicki and Szlachetka to score. Just like that, the Eagles had already reclaimed their lead. Ruth credited his clutch hitting in Friday’s game to some of the work he’s put in during recent practice sessions.

 

“All of practice, Coach Hill has helped me work on hitting it to the other side of the field,” Ruth said. “[Today] I got outside pitches, and I drove one of them to the left side for two RBIs.”

A couple of plays later, Ruth made it home on a line drive into right field from Beaupre. By the end of the fifth inning, the Eagles had extended their lead to 7-4.

Fighting To The End For The Win

Despite now trailing by three runs, the Blue Wave refused to go down without a fight. A pair of walks and an error from Oak Hall’s infield loaded the bases for P.K. Yonge in the sixth inning. However, the team had also already picked up two outs. The Blue Wave managed to score two runs off of a line drive into left field by Alexander Sanetz. However, a ground out in the ensuing at-bat temporarily shut down their hopes of reclaiming the lead.

The Eagles’ bats stayed hot in the bottom of the sixth inning. A single from Kuzmicki and a double from Freeman gave the team two runners in scoring position with only one out in the inning. Ruth proceeded to load the bases with a line drive that P.K. Yonge’s pitcher was unable to corral.

The Blue Wave ended up walking Emory Ezzell in the following at-bat, allowing Kuzmicki to strut home and add on to the lead. However, a pair of fielder’s choices put an end to the inning before the Eagles could further extend their lead.

Szlachetka then took to the mound in the seventh inning, hoping to seal yet another victory for his team. He got off to a flaming hot start, striking out two batters with just six pitches. In the final at-bat of the game, Szlachetka threw three pitches before the Blue Wave batter hit a pop fly into left field. Emory Ezzell easily chased it down, made the grab and finished off the game. The Eagles had completed the season sweep over the Blue Wave.

Szlachetka warms up in the bullpen prior to taking the mound in the fifth inning.

In his relief appearance on the mound, Szlachetka tried to carry over some of his successful pitches from Monday’s win against Union County. However, he also incorporated multiple other pitches to keep things fresh.

“I was throwing a lot of two-seamers again, because last game my two-seamer was working better than it ever has,” Szlachetka said. “It wasn’t working as well, but I think it was a good mix, and it was still effective enough.”

Entering The Home Stretch

The Eagles will now wrap up their regular season with a pair of games next week. They will travel to Trenton High School to face the Tigers next Monday. After that, they will finish things off with one last home game against the Eastside Rams next Thursday.

With the team wrapping up one of their most successful campaigns in recent memory, the Eagles will hope to make some noise in this year’s playoffs. However, Maris affirmed that his guys are focused on taking things one game at a time, just like they have all season long.

“Every game, we prep for that last game of the year, in my opinion,” Maris said. “We ask guys to do certain things that you’re going to have to do down the stretch when you face certain ball clubs. When you have adversity and tight games like this, it only makes you better down the stretch.”

About Jack Meyer

Jack Meyer is a first-year student at the University of Florida. He is majoring in Journalism and specializing in Sports and Media.

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