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In a game that was billed as a matchup between a pair of top Seminole District pitchers, only one was able to stick around long enough to really show off his stuff.
Junior Jake Tanner put on a superb pitching display, yielding but a single run in his six innings of work and leading the Minutemen to a 7-2 win over host Staunton River.
Golden Eagle lefty Michael Williams, meanwhile, had to depart in the third inning, having pulled a leg muscle in the frigid temperature.
Early indications are that Williams should be just fine.
This was Tanner’s night, though. The crafty right-hander limited Staunton River to three hits while striking out six, in his second win of the young season.
“That was a great pitching performance,” said Liberty Head Coach Stewart Grant following the game. “We expect that from Jake.”
Grant pulled Tanner after six innings to let Kody Outhong pitch the last stanza. “I don’t want Jake throwing a lot of pitches this early.”
Outhong limited Staunton River to one run when Cody Pruett’s double brought home Zack Divers from first base.
“He throws a nice curve ball,” said Grant of Outhong.
Divers had scored Staunton River’s only other run when he was sent home on a sacrifice fly by Paul Bratton in the sixth inning.
The Liberty offense was a mix of power and exploitation.
The power came in the form of Clay Carimi. The third baseman hit a solo shot in the fifth inning. At that point, the outcome was still in doubt as the Minutemen led 3-0.
It was the sixth inning when a mix of Liberty quickness and Staunton River flubs put the game squarely into the hands of the Minutemen.
A pair of infield errors led to three Liberty runs before Tanner’s double delivered the coup de grace.
Liberty’s earlier runs were both put together through scrappy effort.
Aaron Lafon led off with a double in the first, advanced to third on a fly out and scored on Brett Dietrich’s sacrifice fly.
In the third, Lafon let his speed do the talking. After coaxing a walk from Williams, the swift catcher stole second and advanced to third on a passed ball.
Lafon scored on Tanner’s sacrifice fly to right field, just beating home Jarodd Nichols’s accurate throw.
“We have to hit and score,” said Staunton River Head Coach Brian Divers. “We need to make (opponents) do three things to get us out.”
Divers was referring to putting the ball in play in order to make opponents field the ball, make the throw and make the catch.
-Zack Divers, still bothered by shoulder problems, was limited to designated hitter duties. Tyler Wheeler, who came up from the JV, played a solid defensive game from behind the plate.
-The temperature dropped throughout the game during this ostensibly spring clash. Additional blankets were broken out throughout the evening by the teams’ faithful.
-Divers called for a 9 a.m. practice the next morning. Obviously, the coach felt there was much to work on. Nary a player was heard complaining when he made the announcement.
-Scouts from Hampden-Sydney College were at the game to get an up-close look at Staunton River hurler Williams.
-The defensive gem of the night very well may have been turned in by Liberty left fielder Jarid Jones. With two men on and one out, SR’s Wesley Orfield hit a Texas Leaguer.
Jones, racing in, slid head first to make the ice cream cone catch to send the River runners back to their bases and a dejected Orfield back to the dugout.