With plenty of optimism and energy, yet plenty of unknowns, the Chattahoochee Valley Baseball team opened the 2013 season with a bang, going 3-0 at the Kevin Miller Classic on the campus of Gulf Coast State College in Panama City Beach, Florida this weekend.
The Pirates opened the season Thursday afternoon against St. John’s River College. The very talented Viking squad brought a very imposing lineup to the Gulf Coast with an always formidable pitching staff. With Big Ben Taylor getting the opening day nod, he quickly stymied any offensive hopes for the Vikings, as he tossed 6 1/3 innings of 2 hit, shutout baseball, and did not allow a hit until the fourth inning. Taylor finished with 5 K’s and a single walk.
Although it took four innings of their own, the Pirate offense struck first and never surrendered the lead. After lacing “at ’em” balls all over the park for 3 innings, Dominique Smedley opened the bottom of the fourth inning with a single to left field in which he advanced to second base on a hustle play when the St. John’s left fielder bobbled the ball. Jared Martin followed with an absolute rocket to right to advance Smedley to third. One batter later, Ty Abbott did some outstanding 2 strike hitting to put the Pirates up 1-0. Martin later scored on a passed ball to push the lead to 2-0.
With the game frozen at 2-0, Taylor was lifted in the 7th inning after a 1 out hit by pitch and ground rule double. However, after Kevin Moore loaded the bases on a walk with 3 questionable ball calls, Nick Jones came in and promptly punched out the next 2 batters to end the Viking threat.
St. John’s finally got on the board in the 8th with a 1 out triple off of Jones and a seeing eye single. However, a strikeout and a pop up later ended any Viking hopes of tying the game.
Chatt Valley added an insurance run in their half of the 8th inning when singles by Ty Abbott and Cody Walker set the table for David Levy’s 2 out RBI single to give the Pirates a 3-1 lead.
Matty Evenson came on in the 9th to shut the door on St. John’s by striking out the side with 93 mph fastballs. A harmless solo homerun was the only damage surrendered in what preserved a 3-2 opening day win for CVCC.
The next evening, the Pirates faced old foe, Gordon College, who advanced to the NJCAA World Series in 2012 and finished 3rd in the nation. Freshman, Dalton “Big Donkey” Rentz made his collegiate debut for CVCC and was nothing short of outstanding, as he allowed only 5 hits and struck out 7 Highlanders in 5 2/3 innings. Although he surrendered 4 runs in his outing, 3 of those came from one player, as Highlander right fielder, Aaron Mizell hit a solo and 2 run homer. Otherwise, the Gordon hitters had no answer for Rentz’s fastball and slider.
Down 4-0 through 5 innings, the Pirate bats came to life as they scratched for a run in the 6th inning, as Jerric Johnson stroked a 1 out single, with Gaige Garret reaching on an error advancing Johnson to third. Dominique Smedley drove in Johnson with an RBI groundout to bring the Pirates back within striking distance, trailing only 4-1.
The Chatt Valley offense went right back to work in the 7th, as hot hitting Jared Martin led off the inning with a single, with Nick Jones following him with a double. Ty Abbott’s RBI ground out scored Martin and advanced Jones to third. “Big time Timmy Jim” Massengale absolutely hammered a double in the right center gap to close the deficit to 4-3 after 7.
In the meantime, freshman reliever, Colt Ramsey, came in relief of Rentz and threw up zeros over the next 2 1/3 innings, surrendering only a single hit and striking out 2.
After Dominique Smedley made a SportsCenter catch to end the top of the eighth, he led off the bottom half with a hit by pitch. After James Cunningham’s sacrifice bunt, Nick Jones scorched a 2 out double to score Smedley and tie the game at 4 apiece.
Chris Brown took over in the 9th and held the Highlanders scoreless after an absolutely sensational defensive effort by Massengale at third base.
That set the stage for the dramatic finish in the bottom of the 9th, when Massengale reached on a 1 out hit by pitch, with Cam Sperry following him by reaching on an error by the Gordon second baseman. Jerric Johnson calmly stepped in and roped a single to left that scored Massengale just ahead of the throw by the Highlander left fielder to give the Pirates a come from behind, walk off 5-4 victory over Gordon State College.
After 2 dramatic wins, the Pirates made sure there was no let down against Andrew College on Saturday, as they came out ripping. Six straight batters reached in the bottom of the first for CVCC, with Smedley leading off with a double, and Johnson and Abbott collecting RBI’s to give them a 2-0 lead.
Redshirt freshman Hunter Mitchell made his long awaited appearance for CVCC after recovering from Tommy John surgery in 2012. He did not dissappoint, as he tossed 5 innings of 2 hit baseball, while striking out 9 Tiger hitters, and allowing only a single walk.
The offense went to work early and often, plating 2 more runs in the second on basehits by JD Perry, Martin, and Jones.
Nick Jones provided more offense in the 4th with an RBI single scoring Johnson who had earlier walked.
The 5th and 6th innings saw 3 more runs come across for CVCC as Gaige Garrett stroked a 2 run single scoring Timmy Massengale and Luke Ewing, while Cody Walker’s RBI groundout in the 6th scored Jones.
With a comfortable 8-0 lead, the Pirates used that as an opportunity to get 5 pitchers over the next four frames their collegiate debuts. Payne Kosobucki tossed a perfect 6th with 2 punchouts, Dylan Lee tossed a perfect 7th, while sophomore Will Thomas threw the eighth, striking out 2 and surrendering an unearned run.
Up 8-1, the Pirates scored their final run of the evening on a double steal by Nick Jones and James Cunningham to give the swashbucklers a 9-1 lead.
Although things got a little hairy in the 9th, as Andrew College scored 3 meaningless runs, freshman Cody Sheffield extinguished the fire to retire the final out, securing the 9-4 Pirate victory.
The 3-0 Pirates will go back to work on Tuesday, February 5th, as they host East Georgia College for a 2:00 pm eastern game at Golden Park in Columbus, Georgia.