Neil Ruth swinging for Oak Hall
Neil Ruth knocked out his fourth triple of the season in Oak Hall's District Semifinals victory over Peniel Baptist Academy on May 1.

Oak Hall Advances To District Championship With Run-Rule Win Over Peniel Baptist

The top-seeded Oak Hall Eagles entered the 2023 2A District 4 Tournament facing high expectations from the spectators and themselves. They rose to the occasion and put together another strong performance to take down the Peniel Baptist Academy Warriors.

Oak Hall only needed five innings to clinch an 11-0 win over Peniel Baptist and advance to the District Championship. The Eagles are now set for a rematch with the Saint Francis Catholic Wolves, who they went 2-0 against in the regular season.

Jack Steen got the start on the mound and kept the Warriors in check all afternoon long. In five innings pitched, he racked up six strikeouts while only allowing two hits, one walk and zero runs. Additionally, 50 of his 68 pitches on the day went for strikes, with Steen only throwing 18 balls.

In the batter’s box, Troy Freeman went 2-for-3 on the day with three RBIs. Neil Ruth and Gavin Jones also finished with multi-hit days of their own as well. Ruth knocked in a leadoff triple for Oak Hall in the fourth inning and finished with two runs scored. Jones knocked in a third-inning double before picking up an RBI later in the game.

Oak Hall Builds A Steady Lead

The Warriors gave Steen a bit of trouble in the first inning. Turner Hersey led off with a hard ground ball single into left field before reaching second on a hit-by-pitch. While Peniel Baptist sought to capitalize on the opportunity Hersey had given them, Steen shut them down before they could. He forced a pop out to the shortstop in the subsequent at-bat to strand the runner at second base.

In the bottom of the inning, the Eagles loaded the bases right away with three consecutive walks to lead the side off. After Jackson Beach scored on a wild pitch, Troy Freeman nailed a ground ball right past Peniel Baptist’s second baseman to land on first base and drive in two more runs.

“They were giving me that outside pitch,” Freeman said. “We practiced this all week last week. [I had to] hop on and get those runners in and those scenarios.”

After Steen sat the Warriors down 1-2-3 in the top of the second, the Eagles tacked on two more runs in the bottom of the inning. Brody Beaupre landed on first via a hit-by-pitch, and Andrew McManis took his place on the basepaths. Ruth then bunted for a single, and both runners advanced into scoring position on a wild pitch.

Jackson Beach then sent a sacrifice fly into center field to bring home McManis. Ruth scored on a wild pitch in the subsequent plate appearance, and Oak Hall went up 5-0. In the following inning, Jack Kuzmicki led off with a walk and stole second base. Freeman eventually drove him in on a line drive single into left field. At the end of the third, the Eagles held on to a 6-0 lead.

Steen Sticks It Out In The Fourth Inning

After going completely quiet at the plate in the second and third innings, Peniel Baptist showed brief signs of life in the fourth. With just one out in the top of the inning, the Warriors landed two runners on base via a walk and single.

The walk came on a pitch that Steen lost control of, partly due to tournament host Saint Francis Catholic Academy’s mound. Steen, a former Saint Francis pitcher, had never been a particular fan of his old team’s mound. It ended up coming back to haunt him on Monday.

“I had a long relationship with [the mound] back when I was here, and it was really [annoying] me off today,” Steen said. “One time, I think it was the fourth inning, I slipped and I threw a ball because of it. I came back, and I was yelling at it and kicking it… I hate that mound, man.”

The Warriors now had a golden opportunity to score their first runs of the game. Yet once again, Steen got the situation back under wraps. He sat down the next batter on strikes before securing a ground out to end the inning.

Peniel Baptist only managed to land four runners on base throughout the entire game. With Steen racking up the strikeouts and preventing any offensive action from the Warriors, the Eagles remained in control the entire afternoon.

Kicking The Offense Into Overdrive

After recording only four hits in the first three innings, Oak Hall finally got hot on the bats later in the game. Neil Ruth knocked a line drive into right field to lead off the bottom of the fourth. As the ball bounced past Peniel Baptist’s right fielder, Ruth rounded the corner at first base and blew past second base. He eventually slid into third base, notching the Eagles’ first extra-base hit of the game.

Jackson Beach advanced to first base on a hit-by-pitch in the subsequent at-bat. Ruth then scored on a passed ball, and Harrison Beach followed that with a single into center field to score his brother Jackson. After Kuzmicki reached first on another hit-by-pitch, both he and Harrison Beach scored on a pair of errors from the Warriors infield unit.

Eventually, Jones knocked in a hard ground ball single to give the Eagles an 11-0 lead. Steen took to the mound in the following inning, looking to officially end Peniel Baptist’s season. He pulled no punches in the fifth, only needing eleven pitches to record the final three outs.

With a pop-out to second and back-to-back strikeouts, Oak Hall clinched the mercy rule victory. They were now officially District Championship-bound.

The Eagles now turn their attention towards their May 3 championship matchup with the Saint Francis Catholic Wolves. The 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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