Jack Kuzmicki, Neil Ruth and Andrew McManis on the field for Oak Hall
Jack Kuzmicki (10), Neil Ruth (3) and Andrew McManis (32) were all honored during Oak Hall's baseball Senior Day on April 27.

Jack Kuzmicki Leads Oak Hall To Senior Day Victory Over Eastside Rams

Jack Kuzmicki, Neil Ruth and Andrew McManis have all had storied careers with Oak Hall. On Thursday afternoon, the three seniors were recognized for their contributions to the Eagles’ baseball program during Oak Hall’s Senior Day. The Eagles then proceeded to send their seniors off properly with a 6-0 victory over the Eastside Rams.

Ruth led the charge at the plate for the Eagles throughout Thursday’s game. He went 2-for-3 in the batter’s box with a triple and an RBI to his name. Gavin Jones chipped in with two RBIs of his own later in the game.

On the mound, Kuzmicki shined in his final regular-season start. Through six innings pitched, he only allowed four hits, two walks and zero runs while striking out six batters. Jones pitched the final inning for Oak Hall. He managed to keep Eastside off the scoreboard to complete the shutout for the Eagles.

Senior Day Festivities

Prior to the first pitch, Oak Hall held a ceremony to honor their soon-to-be graduates. Although it was a bittersweet day for all three seniors, there were still plenty of smiles and laughter as everyone reflected on the memories they had made with the Eagles.

“[Baseball] has pretty much been the highlight of my middle and high school career,” McManis said. “All the friends I made, all the memories from myself and my teammates…just watching the team improve has been the most exciting thing in my high school career.”

Eagles Head Coach Kevin Maris could not be prouder of his class of 2023. Kuzmicki, Ruth and McManis all made their own respective impact on the Oak Hall baseball program, and Maris had plenty to say about all three of them. From Kuzmicki’s talent at the bats and Ruth’s speed on the bases to McManis’ leadership, he acknowledged how they will all be sorely missed next year.

Despite the celebratory mood, the Eagles got right back to work as soon as the festivities ended. They still had a ballgame to play that day.

Kuzmicki Excels On The Mound

Throughout the season, Kuzmicki had been tinkering with his mechanics while practicing in the bullpen. On Thursday, he debuted a new pitching style that featured a submarine delivery. With his new submarine style, Kuzmicki would release his pitches just above the ground, but not underhanded.

“This is going to sound dumb, but I kind of thought it looked cool,” Kuzmicki said. “Me and Brody [Beaupre] have been working on it in secret, and we had to bust it out in one of the last games that I’ll be pitching.”

Kuzmicki’s new mechanics resulted in perhaps his strongest outing on the mound in his career with Oak Hall. In the first three innings of the game, Kuzmicki tallied up four strikeouts while keeping the Rams off the board. His new mechanics also resulted in increased efficiency on his pitches, as he only threw nine balls during that span.

“It was just one of those days where I was throwing strikes,” Kuzmicki continued. “When I’m throwing in an unorthodox way, it’s hard for those guys. Most of them have never seen something like that.”

Meanwhile, Oak Hall jumped out to an early 2-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning. After Jackson Beach and Kuzmicki landed on base via a pair of walks, Troy Freeman knocked a pop fly into right field. The Rams attempted to corral the ball, but they could not make the grab, resulting in an error that allowed both runs to score for the Eagles.

Despite their early lead, Oak Hall did not record a hit in the game until the fourth inning. Nevertheless, with Kuzmicki dominating on the mound, the Eagles still managed to stay in the driver’s seat throughout the first three innings of the game.

Ruth Cracks Open The Floodgates

The Eagles finally snapped Eastside’s no-hitter with a Brody Beaupre single in the bottom of the fourth inning. Neil Ruth then entered the batter’s box, looking to give Oak Hall their first run of the game since Freeman’s two-RBI error. After attempting to lay down a bunt that went foul, he belted a triple deep into right field to extend the Eagles’ lead to 3-0.

 

“I was just trying to drive a ball into a gap somewhere where I could get us rolling with some momentum,” Ruth said. “I got a pitch inside and turned on it, and I knew it was good and solid enough for a triple as soon as I saw it go by the right fielder.”

In the following inning, the Eagles activated full takeover mode to eliminate any remaining hopes of an Eastside comeback. Kuzmicki knocked a deep ball into center field to land on third base early in the inning. Harrison Beach followed him up with an RBI line-drive single.

Freeman knocked in a single in the subsequent at-bat. The Eagles now had runners on first and third with just one out. Gavin Jones proceeded to blast a ball deep in the outfield to drive both Beach and Freeman home, setting Oak Hall up with a 6-0 lead. From there, they cruised to victory with ease.

After six scoreless innings from Kuzmicki on the mound, Jones took over to close the book on the Rams. He did not allow any hits or walks to the Rams. Jones eventually secured a strikeout looking to finish off the game and clinch the Senior Day victory.

Up Next For The Eagles

With their regular season now complete, the 15-5 Eagles will now turn their attention to preparing for the 2A District 4 tournament. Oak Hall holds the top seed in the tournament, which will take place at Saint Francis Catholic High School. The Eagles will face the #4 Peniel Baptist Academy Warriors on May 1 in the semifinals. First pitch is set for 4 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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