Troy Freeman on the mound for Oak Hall
Troy Freeman threw out a season-high 103 pitches through 4.1 innings in Oak Hall's loss to Mount Dora on April 26.

Oak Hall Cannot Hang On In 8-7 Loss To Mount Dora

The Oak Hall Eagles have compiled a 14-5 record through 19 games this season. Out of those five losses, three have come in one-run games. That trend continued on Tuesday evening, when the Eagles dropped an 8-7 loss to the Mount Dora Christian Academy Bulldogs.

After Mount Dora took an early lead in the first inning, Oak Hall trailed throughout most of the game. However, they stormed back with five runs in the sixth inning to take their first lead of the game. The Bulldogs tied the game back up in the bottom of the inning before a walk-off from Bryan Schutte finished the Eagles off.

Jackson Beach and Darion Medley each finished with a pair of hits for the Eagles. Beach went on to score three runs, while Medley tallied up two RBIs. Jack Steen chipped in with a two-RBI single of his own late in the game.

Oak Hall’s star slugger Jack Kuzmicki did not see much action in the batter’s box, partly due to strategy from Mount Dora. In four plate appearances on the day, Kuzmicki was walked three times and hit by a pitch.

On the mound, the Eagles struggled to keep the Bulldogs contained. Troy Freeman got the start and pitched for 4.1 innings. He allowed six hits, five runs (four earned) and six walks. Freeman threw 103 pitches on the day.

Steen relieved Freeman in the fifth inning. In two innings, he gave up two hits, three runs (two earned) and four walks. Ethan Szlachetka then took the mound midway through the bottom of the seventh for just 0.1 innings. He surrendered zero runs, one walk and one hit, the latter of which allowed Mount Dora to secure the victory.

Mount Dora Takes Over Early

After a scoreless top of the first inning for the Eagles, the Bulldogs got to work right away at the plate. Collin Priest landed on first base via a walk before advancing to third on a single from Easton Workman. In the following at-bat, Workman dashed towards second base, and with Oak Hall’s attention diverted, Priest managed to steal home.

Workman then proceeded to score on a line drive into left field from Jacob Hair. The Eagles caught Hair stealing at second for out number three, but they now found themselves in a 2-0 hole after just one inning.

In the bottom of the second inning, Dominic Jones led off the Bulldogs by reaching second base on an Eagles fielding error. Dallas Dale then knocked a single right down the middle to score Jones and give Mount Dora a 3-0 lead.

Oak Hall responded in the top of the third with a pair of singles from Jackson and Harrison Beach. Jackson Beach knocked a hard ground ball to the Bulldogs shortstop and beat out the throw before stealing second base. Harrison Beach then cracked a line drive into center field to drive in the Eagles’ first run of the game.

Mount Dora went scoreless in the bottom of the third. Despite Hair nailing a line drive into right field for a two-out double, he was once again caught stealing to retire the Bulldogs. The Eagles now had some embers of momentum glowing, but they still trailed 3-1 after three innings.

Signs of Life for the Eagles

Neither side could get anything going offensively in the fourth inning. Szlachetka led off with a walk for the Eagles before the subsequent batters went down 1-2-3. For the Bulldogs, Ethan Koller landed on first via a walk, but Oak Hall caught him stealing to keep any more potential runs off the board.

The Eagles then managed to make it a one-run game in the top of the fifth. After Jackson Beach led off with another knock into center field, he advanced to second base on a balk. He then landed on third via a wild pitch, eventually scoring on a single from Medley.

Oak Hall had started turning the tides back in their favor. Dallas Dale only needed two pitches to crush that momentum and put Mount Dora back in the driver’s seat. With a 1-0 count in the bottom of the fifth, Dale crushed a ball over the right field fence for a home run to give the Bulldogs a 4-2 lead.

As the inning went on, the Eagles dugout took note of how long Freeman had been pitching. It eventually came to the coaches’ attention that Freeman was nearing 100 pitches on the day. They removed him from the game shortly after, but not before he managed to crack the century mark.

“I never pay attention to my pitch count, so I had no clue I was that high,” Freeman said. “I always want to throw another pitch, no matter the scenario I’m in.”

With Freeman’s pitch count at 103, Steen relieved him with the bases loaded and one out on the board. The Bulldogs managed to drive in one run via a sacrifice fly before a fly out stranded their remaining runners. At the end of the fifth, Mount Dora held on to a 5-2 lead.

Oak Hall Muscles Their Way Back

After five innings of limited offensive action, the Eagles finally broke through in the sixth. Szlachetka knocked in a grounder past the third baseman for a leadoff single, and Gavin Jones followed him with a walk. Brody Beaupre then knocked a hard ground ball past the Mount Dora second baseman for an RBI double to score Szlachetka.

Jackson Beach then walked to load the bases for the Eagles, but the team also picked up two quick outs along the way. It was now do-or-die time for Oak Hall.

Kuzmicki ended up securing an accidental RBI on a bases loaded hit-by-pitch to cut Mount Dora’s lead down to 5-4. Medley then knocked a ground ball right past the Bulldogs pitcher to safely land on first and score the tying run for the Eagles. Steen then took to the batter’s box, determined to give Oak Hall their first lead of the game.

Steen then blasted a line drive deep into left field for a single. Beach scored with ease, but Kuzmicki was determined to make it home as well. He rounded the corner at third and hustled towards home, making it safely by the skin of his teeth. Steen’s hit had now given the Eagles a 7-5 lead in the top of the sixth inning.

“Coming up with two outs and the bases loaded, I just wanted to get my job done quick,” Steen said. “While the hit wasn’t as clean as expected, it did its job. I really had felt I had let me team down up until that point, and that hit really gave me some mojo back.”

Late Game Struggles Sink Oak Hall

After their offensive surge, the Eagles only needed six outs to close the book on the Bulldogs. They started out the bottom of the inning strong, with a leadoff fly out. They then held Dale and Priest, Mount Dora’s two strongest hitters, to a single and a walk, respectively. With a strikeout in the subsequent at-bat, Oak Hall appeared primed to keep the Bulldogs off the scoreboard.

However, Workman came through for Mount Dora with a grounder into right field for a single to score Dale. Priest then attempted to steal third base in the following at-bat. The Eagles attempted to throw him out, but the ball instead flew past the bag and into left field. Priest then got back on his feet and charged home to score the tying run for Mount Dora.

With all their momentum now seemingly lost, the Eagles went down 1-2-3 in the top of the seventh inning. After Steen struck out the first batter he faced in the bottom of the seventh, he walked Chase Marsh to give the Bulldogs the potential winning run on first base.

Szlachetka took to the mound after Marsh’s walk. After forcing a fly out to right field for out number two, he had to face off against Dale and Priest. Dale ended up reaching first on a hit-by-pitch, while the Eagles elected to intentionally walk Priest. With two outs and the bases loaded, it all came down to one final at-bat: Bryan Schutte vs. Ethan Szlachetka.

Schutte did not waste any time. On the first pitch he saw, he cracked a line drive into center field. As Schutte hustled towards first base, Marsh scored with ease, and the game was over. The Bulldogs had secured the walk-off victory.

Up Next For Oak Hall

Oak Hall will return to Roger Maris Field on Thursday for their final game of the regular season. The Eagles will face off against the Eastside Rams, with first pitch set for 4:15 p.m.

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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