Oak Hall in dugout
Following their lost to Mount Dora Christian, Oak Hall has lost back-to-back games for the first time since the 2022 season.

Oak Hall Allows Five Home Runs in Loss to Mount Dora Christian

Entering the final week of March, the Oak Hall Eagles had only allowed one home run in the 2023 season. On Tuesday, they gave up five homers to the Mount Dora Christian Academy Bulldogs.

The Eagles held their own against the Bulldogs for most of the day. Nonetheless, Mount Dora rode their hot bats to glory in a 10-4 victory over Oak Hall. The loss dropped the Eagles to 8-3 on the year.

Oak Hall managed to tally up nine hits on the day, with eight different players all getting on the board. Neil Ruth went 2-for-3 at the plate, while Jack Kuzmicki secured the team’s only extra-base hit on the day with a double. Jackson Beach, Harrison Beach, Darion Medley and Aaron Akins each scored a run for the Eagles. Medley also picked up the team’s only RBI of the day.

Kuzmicki got the start on the mound for Oak Hall, but he had his work cut out for him. The Bulldogs lineup featured two elite batters committed to NCAA Division 1 schools. Centerfielder Dallas Dale is slated to play for LSU next spring, while first baseman Collin Priest will suit up for the University of Michigan.

Dale and Priest ended up combining for five home runs on the day; Dale knocked out two bombs, while Priest finished with three homers. Kuzmicki did everything in his power to keep the high-powered duo under wraps. It proved to be a difficult task.

Kuzmicki managed to pitch five full innings, where he allowed 11 hits, one walk and five runs. He struck out four batters along the way. Emory Ezzell relieved Kuzmicki in the sixth inning and finished off the game. Ezzell surrendered three hits (two home runs), three walks and five runs.

Oak Hall Contains The Bulldogs Early

The Eagles immediately got to work in the first inning. After striking out Dale in the first at-bat of the game, Kuzmicki allowed a pair of runners to reach second and third. Despite this early jam, he secured another strikeout and a fly out to right field to strand both runners. In the bottom of the inning, he blasted a double into left field to give Oak Hall a man in scoring position with two outs.

Kuzmicki’s pinch runner, Aaron Akins, ended up scoring in a chaotic sequence of events. After Darion Medley reached first via a walk, Akins advanced to third on a wild pitch. Mount Dora’s pitcher then attempted to pick Medley off at first. This is where the play got interesting. It also got pretty confusing.

“I was stealing, but [the pitcher] caught me,” Medley said. “I knew I was beat, so I decided to get in a pickle. That would be the best idea. It ended up going right in my favor.”

With the Bulldogs infield zoned in on Medley, Akins made a break for home plate. Eventually, the first baseman caught on and made the throw to the catcher. Akins just managed to beat it out. The inning ended shortly after, but the Eagles had jumped out to a 1-0 lead.

Neither side managed to get anything going in the second inning. However, the Bulldogs flipped the momentum of the game in the top of the third.

Mount Dora Claws Their Way Back

Kuzmicki faced off against Dale in the leadoff at-bat of the third inning. After building up the count to 3-2, Dale blasted a ball over the head of Medley in center field. Just like that, it was a tie ball game. Mount Dora then drove in another run off of a line drive into left to take the lead.

Despite the Bulldogs managing to load the bases later in the inning, Kuzmicki forced a fly out to left field to prevent any more bleeding. However, the Eagles could not respond in the bottom of the inning. Neil Ruth led off with a single, but the subsequent Oak Hall batters went down one-two-three.

Kuzmicki’s luck only got worse in the fourth inning. After a leadoff single from Mount Dora’s Jacob Hair, Dale belted out yet another homer. One at-bat later, Priest sent a ball of his own over the right field fence. The Bulldogs had hit three home runs in the last two innings.

Obviously, this was the worst-case scenario for Kuzmicki and the Eagles. But Oak Hall’s pitcher did not let this take him out of the game. Neither mentally or literally.

“You can’t break down just because kids are hitting the ball,” he said. “[With] an LSU commit and a Michigan commit, you know they’re going to hit the ball.” Kuzmicki then briefly paused and chuckled a bit. “And they hit the ball. You come in knowing that, and you have to get the next guys.”

To his credit, Kuzmicki lived up to the latter half of his quote. He secured a strikeout, ground out and pop out in the subsequent three at-bats to retire the side. The Eagles still had a lot of work to do, trailing 5-1.

Oak Hall Fall Short of Comeback

Oak Hall put up plenty of resistance at the plate throughout the day. They knocked in three singles in the bottom of the fourth inning and seemed to be garnering some momentum for a comeback. However, after a successful pickoff for the Bulldogs at first base, the Eagles failed to drive in any runs.

Despite having already thrown 72 pitches on the day, Kuzmicki stepped back onto the mound for Oak Hall in the top of the fifth. He successfully kept the Bulldogs off the board. Eagles head coach Kevin Maris praised Kuzmicki for keeping his composure and staying focused from start to finish.

“Jack threw a couple of pitches that got hurt, but that’s going to happen from time to time when you’re facing good teams,” Maris said. “And that’s a quality team, no doubt.”

Ruth led off with yet another single in the bottom of the fifth, but once again, the Eagles went down 1-2-3 after him. Kuzmicki stepped off the mound prior to the sixth inning, having already thrown 86 total pitches. Ezzell ended up replacing him, and the Bulldogs immediately let him know they were not letting up any time soon.

After Dale led off the inning with a walk, Priest knocked another deep ball over the center field wall for his second homer of the day. One inning later, after two more Bulldogs batters made it on base via a pair of walks, Priest once again entered the batter’s box. He then once again homered on a line drive into right.

Too Little, Too Late

The Eagles did put up some late-game runs to improve upon the game’s final score. After Medley and Troy Freeman walked in the sixth inning, Gavin Jones knocked a ground ball into left to score the former runner.

In the seventh, Jackson and Harrison Beach each snagged a hit and ended up scoring as well. Jackson Beach scored on an error from Mount Dora’s catcher, while Harrison Beach scored on a line drive single from Medley. In spite of this late offensive surge, the Eagles’ deficit proved too large to overcome.

Oak Hall will return to the diamond on Friday at 6 p.m. when they travel to Jacksonville to take on the Eagle’s View Warriors.

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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