Jackson Beach and Jack Kuzmicki
Jackson Beach (left) and Jack Kuzmicki (right) combined for seven hits, eight RBIs and four runs scored in Oak Hall's victory over Eastside on March 22.

Jackson Beach and Jack Kuzmicki Save the Day in Oak Hall’s Victory Over Eastside

It appears the Oak Hall Eagles may have a new dynamic duo on their hands. On Wednesday evening, Jackson Beach and Jack Kuzmicki combined forces to lift the Eagles to victory over the Eastside Rams. In a hard-fought battle that saw the lead change hands four times, Oak Hall came out on top to secure a 12-11 win.

Jack Kuzmicki’s powerful presence on the bats kept the Eagles afloat early in the game. He went 4-for-5 at the plate, driving in five runs in the process. Kuzmicki also got the start on the mound for Oak Hall, albeit with less success than he had in the batter’s box. In three innings pitched, he struck out five batters while only surrendering three hits and three walks. However, he also allowed five runs, all of which came in the third inning.

Jackson Beach came through for the Eagles in the final inning both at the plate and on the mound. He finished the day going 3-for-4 in the batter’s box, with his final hit driving in the go-ahead run for Oak Hall. Beach then went on to pitch the final inning, striking out two batters while allowing no hits or walks. In his first appearance on the mound this season, Beach walked away with the save.

Smooth Sailing Early On

At first, it looked like the Eagles were on their way to another easy victory. Jackson Beach led off in the first inning with a walk. Harrison Beach followed him up with a line drive single. After both runners stole a base to advance to second and third, Kuzmicki belted out a ball into left to bring them home.

Two at-bats later, Andrew McManis, the courtesy runner for Kuzmicki, scored on a single from Jack Steen. In the bottom of the inning, Kuzmicki absolutely dominated the Rams. He sat down all three batters he saw on strikes, keeping Oak Hall’s lead at 3-0 after one inning of play.

After a quiet second inning for both sides, Oak Hall managed to get back on the board in the third. Neil Ruth landed on first base via a bunt that turned into a single. He proceeded to steal second and third in the following at-bat. Eventually, Aaron Akins knocked a ball into center field that allowed Ruth to score. However, things quickly soured from there for the Eagles.

Eastside Wakes Up In The Third Inning

As the third inning progressed, Kuzmicki started to run out of gas on the mound. In just three innings, he ended up tallying 59 pitches on the day. For comparison, Kuzmicki only averaged 41 pitches per game entering Wednesday’s matchup. He continued churning away on the mound, but he could only do so much as the Rams started to heat up.

Eastside proceeded to load the bases with just one out on the board via a pair of walks and a single. The Rams then scored their first run of the game on a fielder’s choice, although they now had two outs. After another walk, the Rams proceeded to knock in back-to-back hits to drive in four more runs and claim the lead. Oak Hall snagged a fly out in the subsequent at-bat, but their momentum had already vanished.

Nevertheless, Oak Hall remained undeterred. In the top of the fourth, Kuzmicki secured another line drive single and eventually made it to third after a pair of walks for the Eagles. He then scored on a wild pitch to tie the game back up.

Gavin Jones relieved Kuzmicki on the mound in the bottom of the fourth and took care of business from there. Despite allowing a walk and hitting one batter with a pitch, Jones also racked up three strikeouts in the fourth inning to keep the game tied. The Eagles now had an opportunity to strike back as they entered inning number five.

Kuzmicki Comes Through Yet Again

Despite leading off the fifth with a strikeout, the Eagles managed to load the bases on a hit by pitch and two walks. Jack Kuzmicki was up next. While the stakes were as high as ever, Kuzmicki kept his cool throughout the entire at-bat.

“We had [the bases loaded], and the kid on the mound was struggling to throw strikes,” Kuzmicki said. “He got me into a 2-1 count. When you’re in the box with a 2-1 count and the bases loaded, you know that guy doesn’t want ball three. If he gets ball three, he’s in a huge hole.”

Eventually, Kuzmicki got a pitch right down the middle that he liked. With a mighty swing of his bat, he drilled the ball right into the heart of center field. Kuzmicki landed on second base, and all three runners managed to score. Just like that, Oak Hall had reclaimed their lead. They were now ahead 8-5.

The Rams managed to respond with a run via a sacrifice fly in the bottom of the fifth, but they could not get anything else going. Jones kept Eastside from doing any more damage, and the Eagles held on to an 8-6 lead entering the sixth inning.

Jackson Beach and Jack Kuzmicki continued their respective stellar days at the plate in the top of the sixth. Beach knocked a line drive into left field to score Aaron Akins, who had made it on base via a walk. Kuzmicki then blasted out another deep ball into center to bring Beach home. By the middle of the sixth, Oak Hall had grown their lead to 10-6.

More Turbulence In The Bottom Of The Sixth

The Eagles entered the bottom of the inning with one of their largest leads of the game and a fair amount of confidence. However, that confidence quickly crumbled, as did their four-run lead. Jones stepped off the mound after throwing just one pitch in the sixth inning. He was subsequently replaced by Emory Ezzell.

Ezzell struggled to keep the Rams under wraps. The first two batters he faced made it on base via a walk and a single, respectively. He went on to strike out the following batter, but not before allowing a runner to score on a wild pitch. The Rams then went on to compile a walk, a single and a double to drive in three more runs. All of a sudden, it was a tie ball game again.

Gavin Jones
Gavin Jones attempts to dodge a wild pitch during Oak Hall’s matchup with Eastside.

Eastside eventually scored their eleventh run of the game on a throwing error from the Oak Hall infield. They had pulled off a four-run comeback in just the span of one half inning. By the end of the sixth inning, the Rams led 11-10. They were now just three outs away from clinching their comeback victory. However, the Eagles were not done yet.

With the Oak Hall dugout attempting to keep hope alive, the Eagles made their way back out to the batter’s box for one final inning. Jack Steen led off with a pop out to second, giving the Rams their first out. Gavin Jones ended up on first via a hit by pitch. Neil Ruth knocked in a ground ball to land on second. Emory Ezzell chipped in with a single to land on first, but Jones ended up being tagged out while dashing for home.

Jackson Beach Commences His Takeover

The Eagles were now down to their final out. Brody Beaupre entered the batter’s box, looking to somehow keep the team afloat. Despite going down 1-2 in the count, he remained composed. The pitcher threw out three balls in a row, allowing Beaupre to advance to first.

Jackson Beach enters the box. He had faced clutch situations in his career before, but not quite as dramatic as this. Bases loaded. Two outs. Final inning. Down one run. It was about as big of an at-bat as one could possibly ever get. That did not faze him whatsoever.

“I just wanted to stay within myself,” Beach said. “In the at-bat before, I had a nice single over the shortstop’s head. So I was thinking [to hit it in the] opposite field, something in the gap. Whenever I think ‘opposite field’, I sort of stay in myself and don’t have too big of a swing.”

Jackson Beach stayed patient in looking for a pitch he liked. First one comes in. Ball one. Second pitch flies past him. Ball two. Eastside’s pitcher recomposes himself and throws out another one. Strike one. Now Beach is locked in and ready to go. He sees the pitch and swings. The ball soars through the air as the crowd holds their breath in anticipation. The Rams cannot get to it in time, and it lands fair deep in center field.

All three Eagles runners make a mad dash for home. Two runs score, while the third is tagged out at home. Nevertheless, Oak Hall had now once again retaken the lead. Now they just needed to maintain it.

Shutting Down The Rams For Good

With a depleted bullpen and a one-run lead to maintain, the Eagles opted to put Jackson Beach on the mound for the final inning. Beach had made a couple of pitching appearances last season, but mainly in low-pressure situations. This would be his most pressing task yet as an Oak Hall pitcher.

Not only did Jackson Beach live up to the moment, but he thrived in it. He sat down the first batter he saw on just three pitches. Strike one looking, strike two swinging, strike three swinging. One out.

The next batter made it on first via a fielding miscommunication from the Eagles. Beach wasted little time in securing the second out in the following at-bat. Strike one looking, strike two swinging, ball one, strike three swinging. Two outs.

In the final at-bat of the game, Beach only needed two pitches to force a ground out. Ezzell scooped up the ball at second base and tossed it over to Jack Steen at first. Three outs. Game over. In perhaps their most difficult test of the season so far, the Eagles prevailed for their eighth win of the season.

Almost no one in the Oak Hall clubhouse anticipated Wednesday’s game being as close or as turbulent as it was. Nonetheless, one thing remained clear as they departed Eastside High School that evening: a win is a win, no matter what.

“In baseball, you’re going to have games where you don’t play as clean as you’d like to,” Eagles Head Coach Kevin Maris said. “But [we] battled through it, got the win out of it and stayed in the win column.”

The Eagles will be back in action this Friday at 4:15 p.m., as they will host the P.K. Yonge Blue Wave. Oak Hall defeated the Blue Wave in a high-scoring matchup to open up their season last February. The Eagles now hope to secure the series sweep over their cross-town rivals this week.

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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