For a team, by its own head coach’s admission, that had not hit the ball extremely well so far this season, Stratford's baseball team didn’t look the part Tuesday night at Bobby Hendley Field.
The Eagles put runs together both by way of extra-base hits and small ball, scoring in five of six innings during an 11-0 victory against FPD that ended in the bottom of the sixth by way of the 10-run mercy rule.
The Eagles blew the game open with a three-run homer by John Michael O’Quinn in the third inning and clinched the win in the bottom of the sixth on a bases-loaded triple by Clifton Olmstead.
Stratford, which improves to 5-2 overall and 1-0 in GHSA Region 7-A, didn’t need much of an offense with the way that staff pitching ace Jackson Pyles was pitching as he gave up just three hits to the Vikings (7-3, 1-1).
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THREE WHO MATTERED
Pyles: Stratford’s hurler set the tone early, retiring the first three hitters that he faced and went on to allow only three hits on a night in which he kept the FPD bats off balance.
O’Quinn: Pyles gained some valued run support in the third inning when O’Quinn’s three-run homer over the right-field wall made a 1-0 game a 4-0 Eagles lead when his blast off FPD starting pitcher Gavin Bloodworth scored Ames Jamison and Trey Giles, who had reached on an infield hit and walk.
Jamison: The second baseman epitomized success in small ball. He reached base each time he was at-bat, doing so on a pair of singles, a walk and a double. On three of the runs that he scored, he advanced by virtue of at least one passed ball or wild pitch, making the most of his on-base opportunities.
The Vikings missed out on a key chance early on to rally. With one out in the second and Stratford ahead 1-0 and Daniel Weaver on second base, Austin Hartley was called out for baserunner interference after he and O’Quinn, Stratford’s first baseman, collided near the first-base line. The play resulted in the second out of the inning, and a Will McCormick strikeout a batter later ended the scoring chance.
Leading the Vikings: Weaver, Ryan Jones and Garrett West each had hits to lead FPD at the plate.
Early exit: FPD head coach Denny Bryant, who disputed the baserunner interference call in the second inning with the umpiring crew, was ejected an inning later after appearing to argue a ball and strike call.
Sharing the load: Bloodworth gave up four runs on three hits through three innings and was relieved by Weaver, who in three innings of work surrendered seven runs five hits.
Extra effort: Olmstead rebounded after going hitless in his first two plate appearances. He reached on an error in the fourth inning that plated a run before ripping a double and triple to finish out the night with four RBI.
THEY SAID IT
Stratford head coach Tyler Brown on the Eagles' offensive output: “Honestly, we really haven’t swung the bats very well until (Tuesday). I thought getting small ball going early really helped us and got us going.”
Brown on Stratford’s youth that includes having five seniors on the roster: “We have a lot of young guys, they just have to keep it going. A lot of times you’ll get really high after a win, get pumped up and lose focus. Hopefully, this group won’t do that."
Brown on Pyles: “He was lights out. When he can do that for us, we have more than a good chance to win. He was awesome.”
Pyles on getting an early lead: “It helps a lot. When you get up a lot of runs, you can go out there and just throw the ball.”
Pyles on getting a rivalry win: “It’s great for the young guys and their confidence. When you beat a good team like that, you start feeling better about yourself and are more confident that you can make better plays.”
FPD and Stratford play each other again at 7 p.m. on Friday at FPD.