Troy Freeman leaving the mound for Oak Hall
Troy Freeman exits the mound after pitching 4.1 innings in Oak Hall's loss to The Villages on March 7.

Oak Hall Falls to The Villages in First Loss of the Season

In a battle of the pitchers on Monday night, the Oak Hall Eagles came up just short. The Eagles suffered a 6-4 loss to The Villages Charter Buffalo, marking their first defeat of the season. The Villages pitcher Carter Parks dominated on the mound for six innings, striking out 12 Eagles batters on the night.

Oak Hall did put up some resistance throughout the game. Eagles starting pitcher Troy Freeman only allowed one run, three hits and one walk in his first four innings on the mound. Nevertheless, a fifth inning collapse from the Eagles defense gave way to the Buffalo taking over. Freeman finished the day with six runs (three earned), six hits and two walks in 4.1 innings pitched. Jack Steen subsequently replaced him on the mound for the final 1.2 innings, surrendering three hits and no runs.

The Eagles’ offense also had an unusually quiet night on Monday. Entering their game with The Villages, Oak Hall had racked up double-digit hits in all but one of their prior outings this season. Nonetheless, they only managed to pick up six hits against the Buffalo, three of which came from Jackson Beach. Beach had a nearly perfect game in the batter’s box despite the tough matchup on the mound. He scored two runs, stole three bases and drove in one run.

The rest of the Eagles struggled to keep up on the offensive end. Asides from Beach, only Jack Kuzmicki, Brody Beaupre and Steen recorded hits of their own on Monday night. Kuzmicki was also the only Eagle besides Beach to record an RBI on the evening.

Taking Control Early On

Leading things off for Oak Hall, Beach started the game off with a bang. After landing on first via a walk, he managed to steal second base before advancing to third on a passed ball. With a runner now in prime scoring position, Kuzmicki stepped into the batter’s box, ready to do his job.

Kuzmicki entered today’s game feeling relatively under the weather. He  felt extremely fatigued all game long, and at one point he felt he was “seeing double.” However, Kuzmicki refused to let his teammates down, and he was prepared to do whatever it took to help his squad.

With the count at 2-2, Kuzmicki knocked in a ground ball right past third base. As Beach took off for home, Kuzmicki hustled his way towards first. Both runners safely made it to their respective bases. Beach scored, and Kuzmicki made it on board the bag. While he ended up stranded at first, he had given Oak Hall the early momentum they needed.

“The kid on the mound… had a good curveball,” Kuzmicki said. “I stayed through it and tried to get the ball on the ground. That’s what I did, and I just happened to hit it perfectly to get the run in and be safe at first.”

Beach and Freeman Keep Oak Hall in Charge

Two innings later, Beach once again made it onto first on a well-hit single up the middle. With two outs already on the board, he knew he had to act fast to generate more offense for his team. On the first pitch of the subsequent at-bat, Beach made a break for second base. He slid in with ease. After a few more pitches, Beach charges towards third. As Beach beats out the throw, the Buffalo third baseman fails to secure the throw from the catcher. Beach then makes a mad dash for home plate and managed to score his second run of the day.

Beach has stolen nine bases in five games for the Eagles this season, only behind fellow speedster Darion Medley (10). When asked about how he navigates the bases so smoothly, Beach emphasized his prowess in quick decision-making.

“I try and be as aggressive as possible without being stupid,” Beach said. “I try and stay smart, and I know that every run is important, especially in games where we know it’s going to be a low-scoring battle.”

While Beach gave Oak Hall some sparks on the offensive end, Freeman kept the Buffalo in check defensively. With some stellar play from the infield to back him up, Freeman sat down batter after batter early in the evening. His only run allowed in the first four innings came on a passed ball, and the runner who scored originally made it on base via a throwing error. Even after the passed ball resulted in another runner making it to third, Freeman secured three consecutive outs to keep Oak Hall in charge.

A Tumultuous Fifth Inning Spoils the Eagles’ Efforts

The Eagles managed to further extend their lead in the top of the fifth inning. Following a walk for Neil Ruth and a ground ball single from Beaupre, Jackson Beach belted another single up that brought Ruth home. Oak Hall now led 3-0. But their lead did not last for much longer.

Freeman started off the inning strong, forcing an immediate ground out to third base. However, things quickly unraveled from there. A single into left field. An RBI-triple deep into center. A walk. An RBI-double back into left field. An error driving in two more runs. Suddenly, the Eagles went from leading by three to trailing by two. Their momentum had disappeared right before their eyes, and the Buffalo had taken control of the driver’s seat.

“I think we got a little too overconfident about our lead,” Freeman said. “We started playing a lot less lockdown in the infield and outfield… And I was getting tired on the mound, I stopped throwing strikes and hitting my spots.”

Eagles Head Coach Kevin Maris elected to replace Freeman with Steen. Despite allowing a single and a sacrifice fly against the first two batters he faced, he managed to get the situation back under wraps with a fly out to finish the inning. Steen kept the Buffalo off the board in the sixth inning as well, with a strikeout and a double play from the Eagles’ infield holding off any more runs from The Villages. However, it was too little and too late for Oak Hall.

Oak Hall Falls To 4-1 On the Year

Despite Medley and Steen leading off the top of the sixth with a walk and a single, respectively, the Eagles’ hopes of a comeback were dashed with a double play in the following at-bat. While Medley scored on the play, the Buffalo eventually secured a ground out to prevent any more offensive action that inning.

In the top of the seventh, The Villages immediately forced two outs against the first two batters they saw. Despite Beach knocking in a single for his third hit of the day, the final nail in the coffin came via a fielder’s choice groundout for Oak Hall. Beach was tagged out at second, and the game was over.

Coach Maris acknowledged multiple miscues on both offense and defense that ended up sinking the team’s chances of winning. Nevertheless, he also noted that the team played an all-around solid game, and he believes they can become even stronger going forward.

“We got a little bit sloppy in some at-bats, and we got sloppy with a few defensive plays that let them score,” Maris said. “We have to tidy up our end. If we do our job, the score is totally different… It was still a good game either way, but at the end of the day, when you’re playing good teams… We just have to learn from our mistakes and keep building off of that.”

The Oak Hall Eagles will be back in action on March 8 at 4:15 p.m., when they will host the St. John Lutheran Saints. In their first meeting earlier this season, the Eagles dominated the Saints in a 15-0 run-rule victory. They hope to use this rematch as an opportunity to bounce back and regain their momentum.

About Jack Meyer

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

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