Pleasant Valley opened the 2018 baseball season with four consecutive home games and four consecutive wins last week.
This week, the Raiders will be on the road for four games. Class 3A Pleasant Valley travels to take on perennial Class 4A power Hokes Bluff today.
The Raiders are at 4A White Plains on Thursday for a 1 p.m. start that should produce a large student crowd supporting the Wildcats. Pleasant Valley meets 4A Jacksonville at Henry Farm Park at 11 a.m. Saturday then plays powerful Westbrook Christian at 1 p.m. in a game also set for Henry Farm Park.
“This week’s a big week for us,” Raiders coach Chris Youngman said early Monday afternoon.
“It’s one of those weeks that you look at as a coach and think, ‘We’re going to see what we’re made of this week.’ There’s no doubt in my mind that we can come out of this week just like we did last week – 4-0.”
Pleasant Valley defeated Ohatchee 8-0 on Feb. 20 by scoring three runs in the first inning, three in the second and two in the third. Brody Phillips fanned six in six innings and Jackson Almaroad had two strikeouts in the seventh. Caden Turner and Alex Parris had two hits apiece. Ashton King drove in two runs. Drew Bonds and Colby Nelson added an RBI apiece.
Pleasant Valley downed White Plains 10-9 in eight innings Thursday. The Raiders trailed 8-4 after the Wildcats scored two runs in the top of the fifth inning. In the bottom of the fifth, Pleasant Valley tallied five times for a 9-8 advantage. White Plains tied the score in the seventh.
Bonds had a leadoff double in the home half of the eighth. Nic Smith’s ground ball up the middle to center field sent the winning run home. The Wildcats had thrown out a runner at the plate in the bottom of the seventh to avoid defeat.
Tristan Salster got the win in relief. He recorded four strikeouts. At the plate Salster had two RBIs.
The Raiders hosted Cleveland and Ashville on Saturday. They downed Cleveland 15-4 in five innings. Six runs in the first and seven in the third made it 13-0 after three innings. The Panthers got four runs in the top of the fourth but it was 15-4 after four complete innings. Nelson started and had six strikeouts in four innings of work. Bonds drove in two runs. Ashton King had two hits.
Batting as the visiting team against Ashville, the Raiders got two runs in the top of the third, four in the fourth and one in the seventh. Ashville’s run came in the third. Phillips picked up the win with six innings of relief work. He struck out nine. Nelson recorded three hits and knocked in two runs. Phillips had two hits. Bonds and Parris each had one RBI.
“The defense is playing really well right now. I think we’ve only had three errors on the year in four games,” Youngman said.
Jacksonville has lots of experience in the field in David Clark’s first year as head baseball coach. Pitching experience is so limited behind senior pitcher and shortstop Colton Clark that the elder Clark referred to the early part of the 2018 season as “the great pitching search right now” Monday afternoon.
The younger Clark was Jacksonville’s No. 2 starter behind Colin Casey last year. Casey’s now pitching at Jacksonville State.
“We only won one game last year that Colin or Colton didn’t pitch in at some point. We lost half that and probably the better half. It’s just a huge lack of experience right now,” the Golden Eagles coach said. “We’re just fighting through it trying to figure it out.”
Clark was the starter at shortstop last year and will fill that role again in 2018. Blake Morris will catch. Morris caught extensively in 2016 but missed much of the 2017 season recovering from a football injury. Austin Lackey is a returning starter at first base. Taye Loud has experience at third base. Josh Glass and Kyle Seeger are experienced outfielders. Glass will start in center and Seeger in right. Dylan Murphy, who did most of the catching last year, will start at second base.
Brandon Breeding, who could become Jacksonville’s No. 2 starter, is recovering from an injury. Breeding is also an outfield candidate when he returns.
Brandon Charping and Austin Patterson are also pitcher-outfielders. Jacob Tucker, playing baseball for the first time at Jacksonville, is an outfielder.
Clark said sophomores Sam Dingler, Brandon Heard and Josh Joiner and freshman Coleman Oliver could get some playing time with the varsity but will get most of their work with the JV early. Oliver is an infielder. Dingler pitches. Heard and Joiner each catch and Joiner also plays in the outfield.
The Eagles opened at Alexandria on Feb. 20 and surrendered five unearned runs in a 5-1 loss to the Valley Cubs.
Saturday’s doubleheader at Westbrook Christian in Rainbow City was better, Clark said. The Eagles defeated Sardis 15-6 before falling to perennial power Westbrook Christian 6-5.
“I thought we played two really good games. … Dylan Murphy pitched really well, which is what I’m hunting for right now. He did a great job against Westbrook who has a really good team,” Clark said.
Jacksonville plays at Ohatchee today. Oxford comes to Jacksonville on Friday. The Eagles host Pleasant Valley and Westbrook Christian at Henry Farm Park on Saturday.
Jacksonville Christian opened its 2018 baseball season in the best way possible. The Thunder traveled to Winterboro on Saturday and swept a doubleheader with wins over Anniston and Winterboro. First, Jacksonville Christian overcame a final-inning four-run deficit and defeated Anniston 13-12.
Freshman Tanner Wilson and seven-grader Ethan Fair each walked to start the rally and Elijah McCormack’s single scored Wilson. Jeremy Cockrell singled and Fair scored. Kobe Messer doubled home McCormack and Cockrell to tie the game. Jonathan Carter delivered the base hit that sent Messer home with the winning run.
Kobe Messer doubled and singled. Carter, Cockrell and McCormack each had a pair of singles. Eli Fair singled once. Ethan Fair was the winning pitcher.
Against Winterboro, JCA won 13-1. McCormack and Cockrell blasted triples. Walker Messer, Kobe Messer and Nash Messer each stroked a single. Kobe Messer picked up the win on the mound.
Jacksonville Christian plays at Saks today. The Thunder travels to Skyline Friday. Skyline comes to Jacksonville to play JCA on Mar. 5.