Oak Hall Survives Scare From Trenton To Extend Win Streak To Seven Games

The Oak Hall Eagles have seen their fair share of action this season. However, in their first thirteen games this year, only one went into extra innings. Oak Hall ended up losing by one run in a controversial and down-to-the-wire finish. On Monday night, the Eagles wound up going into extra innings for the second time this season. This time, things went in their favor. After a hard-fought battle from both sides, the Eagles took home the win against the Trenton Tigers in a 5-4 thriller.

Oak Hall received plenty of contributions from nearly the entire roster on Monday evening. Jack Kuzmicki and Neil Ruth each picked up two hits on the day. The Tigers also walked Kuzmicki twice; one resulted from Trenton’s pitcher hitting Kuzmicki with a pitch, while the other came from an intentional walk late in the game. Jackson Beach, Brody Beaupre and Aaron Akins each picked up a hit and an RBI in the final two innings. Andrew McManis pinch ran for Beaupre and ended up scoring two runs for the Eagles.

Troy Freeman got the start on the mound for Oak Hall. In four innings pitched, Freeman allowed seven hits, two walks and two runs (one earned run). He also threw out two strikeouts. Jackson Beach and Emory Ezzell each pitched in the latter half of the game for two innings. Beach gave up two hits, no walks and no runs; he also threw one strikeout. Ezzell gave up one hit, four walks and two runs (no earned runs) while throwing out two strikeouts. Ezzell ended up getting the win on the mound.

Starting Off Slow In The Batter’s Box

The Eagles collected only four hits throughout the first five innings of the game. Kuzmicki blasted out a well-hit double into the outfield in the first inning. However, with two outs already on the board, the Eagles could not drive him home.

One inning later, Neil Ruth knocked a line drive into left field to give Oak Hall a runner at first base. However, the team’s offense could not capitalize on the hit. Ruth did not advance from first as the inning quickly came to an end. With one out already on the board, the Tigers snagged a fly out and a ground out to keep the score 0-0.

Oak Hall’s only run prior to the seventh inning came from Jackson Beach’s nifty base running. After the Tigers walked Beach in the third inning, he attempted to steal second base during the following at-bat. However, things did not go exactly how Beach planned, as he initially stumbled off the bag. Nevertheless, he still found a way to make it safely to second.

“First, I tripped on my jump [off first base], and then I was leaning forward the whole time, and I almost tripped again,” Beach said. “I knew it was going to be a bang-bang play… I saw where the fielder was, and I knew I needed to get all the way, so I did a little slide out of the way and reached my hand at the last second to touch the base.”

In the subsequent two innings, the Eagles recorded two hits. Both came during the fifth inning, with Aaron Akins and Harrison Beach picking up back-to-back singles. However, Beach was picked off at first base to end the inning and leave Oak Hall with only one run.

Trenton Takes The Lead After Five Innings

The Tigers got off to a slightly better start than the Eagles, but not by much. While Trenton picked up more hits and walks early on in the game, they could not turn them into runs. Oak Hall’s infield played a key role in preventing the Tigers from scoring, as they picked off three baserunners throughout the first four innings. Freeman’s pitching also helped to stifle Trenton’s offensive output. He did not allow a single batter to make it past second base in four innings pitched.

Brody Beaupre catches for Troy Freeman during the early innings of Oak Hall’s matchup with Trenton.

However, this defensive momentum faded in the fifth inning. The Tigers kicked off the bottom of the inning with a single and a runner reaching first on an error from Oak Hall’s infield. The Eagles elected to take Freeman off the mound and replace him with Jackson Beach. During the following at-bat, the Tigers knocked in a bunt that the Eagles struggled to corral. In the ensuing chaos, one Tigers runner scored, while the other made it to third base.

The Tigers bunted once again in their next plate appearance; Beach attempted to scoop the ball up and throw out the Trenton runner from third base, but he had already made it home. Deciding to try their luck, the Tigers went for a third consecutive bunt right after that. This time, Beach successfully threw out another Tigers’ runner at home. Eventually, the Eagles finished off the inning with a double play, but the Tigers had already made their mark. Oak Hall now trailed 2-1.

Trying To Claw Their Way Back Into The Game

Oak Hall did not go down without a fight, but they initially struggled to respond after Trenton took the lead. Kuzmicki hit another single to kick off the inning. He was ultimately tagged out at home on a fielder’s choice later in the inning. However, Kuzmicki’s spirit of resistance at the plate eventually carried over to the rest of the team and helped keep the offense alive throughout the game.

Jack Kuzmicki prepares for the pitch.

“Coach Hill always tells me, ‘You want to be a 3-2 player, not a 15-1 player,'” Kuzmicki said. “When the game is close, you want to be able to succeed… In a close game, everyone’s got to come through. It starts one man at a time.”

Meanwhile, Beach kept the Tigers from doing any more damage on the offensive end. The Eagles quickly secured a flyout and a lineout in Trenton’s first two plate appearances in the sixth inning. After a Tigers batter belted a single into left field, Beach prevented him from going any further by striking out the following batter.

Jackson Beach Keeps The Eagles Alive

Entering the seventh inning, the Eagles were in a do-or-die situation. If they could not score at least one run, the game would be over. With the Trenton crowd and the opposing dugout hooting and hollering at the top of their lungs, the pressure was as high as it gets for Oak Hall. The first three batters up for the Eagles: Emory Ezzell, Brody Beaupre and Aaron Akins. Ezzell and Akins struck out. Beaupre made it onto first base following an error from Trenton’s shortstop.

With two outs on the board already, McManis entered the game as a pinch-runner for Beaupre. Jackson Beach stepped to the plate. Strike one, looking. No one can even hear themselves think. Strike two, looking. The players in the Trenton dugout are now screaming at the top of their lungs. Ball one. Wild pitch. A cheer erupts from the Oak Hall fans in attendance as McManis hurries over to second base.

Now down to his final strike, Beach sees a pitch he likes. He swings. One can likely hear the crack of the bat from a mile away. The ball trails deep into left field as McManis sprints around the third base corner and crosses home plate. Beach and the Eagles had prevailed. The game was now tied 2-2.

Beach’s hit provided an immediate spark to the Oak Hall offense. However, another source of excitement for the Eagles was McManis’ speed on the bases. In the span of one at-bat, he made it from first base all the way home thanks to some swift running on the wild pitch and Beach’s blast.

“[The] coaches tell guys who pinch run that it’s something you need to specialize in,” McManis said. “I felt really calm knowing I had Coach Hill and Coach Maris giving me advice.”

Ezzell Clutches Up On The Mound Late In The Game

While the Eagles were ecstatic with Beach tying up the game, only half of their work had been done. They still needed to keep the Tigers off the board to send it into extra innings. Eagles Head Coach Kevin Maris chose to put Ezzell on the mound to start the seventh inning. Ezzell walked Trenton’s Johnny Scott to start things off. Scott went on to steal second base; following some confusion from the Eagles in their attempt to pick him off, Scott advanced to third base. With no outs on the board, the Tigers already had the go-ahead run at third.

Emory Ezzell warms up in the on-deck circle prior to the seventh inning.

Ezzell’s margin for error had already shrunk from slim to none. One minor slip-up and the Tigers would walk off with the victory. With an immense amount of pressure now on his shoulders, Ezzell went with a familiar source of comfort to keep himself composed.

“I just breathed, I looked into the crowd and saw my dad,” Ezzell said. “It [made me] feel confident.”

After Oak Hall elected to walk Trenton’s next two men up, Ezzell stepped back onto the mound and recollected himself. The following three at-bats went by relatively quickly, but for the spectators in the crowd, the anticipation made it feel like forever. Ezzell struck out the first batter in the set in just four pitches.

The next batter grounded out to Freeman at first base. Freeman immediately made the throw over to Beaupre, who tagged the man on third out. Finally, after just two pitches, Trenton’s third batter in the set hit a pop fly over to left field. Ruth easily made the grab. The game was now going to extra innings.

Beaupre and Akins Step Up In Extra Innings

The Eagles offense had finally started to heat up by the time the eighth inning came around. Despite picking up an early out, the Eagles quickly hit back-to-back singles to land Ruth and Ezzell on base. Beaupre now stepped into the batter’s box, knowing he could make a game-changing play with just one solid swing. After hitting a foul ball on the first pitch he saw, Beaupre came back on the very next pitch with a perfectly hit into center field.

Ruth ended up scoring on the play, while Ezzell advanced to third. When describing his thought process as the ball soared through the air, Beaupre kept it simple.

“[My] first thought was ‘That felt really good off the bat, that’s probably going to be a hit,'” Beaupre said. “Second thought: ‘I don’t have to run very fast.’ Third thought: ‘Oh! He scored! Great!'”

After McManis stepped onto first base to run for Beaupre, Akins took to the batter’s box. Hoping to add on to Oak Hall’s lead, he looked over to Coach Maris. Maris gave him the signal for a butcher boy. A butcher boy is when a batter appears like they are about to bunt, but at the last second, they pull their bat back and swing at the ball in a downwards direction.

Akins executed the play to perfection. While he was tagged out at first base, Ezzell scored off of the play. Eventually, McManis scored on a wild pitch later in the inning, extending Oak Hall’s lead to 5-2. Coach Maris singled out Akins’ butcher boy as one of his favorite plays from the night in the team’s post-game meeting.

“I really thought of it as a practice hit,” Akins said. “We do it so much [at practice], and it pays off.”

The Eagles Finally Finish The Tigers Off

Oak Hall discusses their gameplan in between innings during their Monday night victory.

Neither side wanted to give in at any point during Monday’s matchup. This was no exception for Trenton at the end of the game. Despite facing a three-run deficit, the Tigers came out swinging in the bottom of the eighth inning. In Trenton’s first plate appearance of the inning, Ezzell picked up a strikeout. However, after Ezzell walked the subsequent batter the Tigers responded with a line drive that brought in one run.

After the Tigers’ first run of the inning, Beaupre secured a pop fly behind the batter’s box to give the Eagles their second out. Trenton’s Maddox Gilliam proceeded to blast a triple into center field that drove in another run for his team. Ezzell now faced another high-pressure situation. With the Tigers putting a man on third and being one run away from tying the game back up, Ezzell needed to secure one last out to put them away for good.

Trenton’s Johnny Scott stepped back into the batter’s box, hoping to provide another spark play for his team. Ezzell, however, had other plans. Just two pitches into the at-bat, Scott hit a ground ball over to Freeman at first base. Freeman made the snag and quickly tapped his foot on the bag. Just like that, Trenton’s attempt at a rally crumbled. Oak Hall had emerged victorious.

Wrapping Up The Regular Season Later This Week

Monday’s outing against the Tigers was Oak Hall’s final regular-season road game. They will finish off their regular season at Roger Maris Field this Thursday at 4:15 p.m. The Eagles will play host to the Eastside Rams. Something to keep an eye out for in that one: Maris is now one win away from his 300th win as a head coach. Oak Hall may be able to celebrate an impressive milestone for their decorated skipper while closing out the regular season in style.

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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