Rosewood diamond nine hand Farmville Central first loss of season
By Rob Craig
Published in Sports on March 7, 2007 2:47 PM
Matt Neal began preparing for this season back in November and practiced throughout the winter in sometimes frigid conditions.
Little did the freshman pitcher from Rosewood know, one of his first starts would occur on an evening that reminded fans more of October baseball than March.
With temperatures hovering in the 40s and a cool breeze making it feel even colder, Neal and his teammates got warm by knocking off previously undefeated Farmville Central 5-3 on Tuesday night at the Nest in Rosewood.
"Every day we have to come out and practice in (weather like this) and some days its been colder than this," said Rosewood coach Josh Smith. "I think with us in a position to win, our adrenaline was pumping and it kept us warm."
Rosewood was in position to pick up the win thanks to Neal, who tossed 51/3 solid innings to pick up his first win of the season.
"I went out there and did my best," said Neal. "Everyone knows I'm a freshman and they're not expecting me to do very well, so I decided to prove them wrong."
Neal pitched more like a seasoned veteran than someone who was making just his second varsity start. He kept the Jaguars off the scoreboard for the first three innings by allowing only one hit.
During that span, Neal's teammates gave him a lead to work with.
After scratching out a run thanks to an infield single by David Smeltzer in the bottom of the first inning, the Eagles struck again in the second.
Rosewood tapped three consecutive infield hits to the right spots to push a run across. Following a walk to Neal that loaded the bases, Taylor Allen hit a sacrifice fly to score Garrett Howell and give the Eagles a 3-0 lead.
The Eagles would score for the third straight inning in the bottom of the third when Holt Rains reached via an error by Jaguar third baseman Kenny Davis to lead off the inning. A hit by Cody Richards chased Farmville starter Will Davis from the game and put two runners on with no outs.
Josh Hamilton laid down a perfect sacrifice to set the table for Goss Kendall, who singled home Rains to give Rosewood a 4-0 lead. A wild pitch by reliever Justin Bagley brought home Richards to put Rosewood up 5-0.
"We've been preaching taking care of the small things -- executing on the base path, with the bat and the fielding," said Smith. "We laid down some key bunts and got our runners in."
The Jaguars came back in the next frame as they hit Neal for two runs to pull within 5-2.
Neal, fired up by the previous inning, set down Farmville in order on just six pitches in the top of the fifth.
"I left the ball up some in the previous inning so in the next inning, I got fired up and kept the ball down to get some ground balls and outs," said Neal.
The early lead taken by Eagles paid off as they found hitting Bagley next to impossible. The Jaguar reliever struck out nine Rosewood hitters in his 32/3 innings of work.
"It was a speed adjustment," said Smith of Bagley's pitching. "We took care of business early though."
Neal left with one out in the sixth inning with a runner on. Richards came on, but allowed the inherited runner to score to make it 5-3.
Richards settled down and opened the top of the seventh with a strikeout of Daniel Collins. A misplay on a fly ball brought the tying run to the plate, but Richards was able to get two flyouts to end the game and notch his second save.
Neal improved to 1-1 by giving up three runs on four hits, walked no one and struck out three in his five-plus innings of work.
"You can't say too much about him because all he wants is the ball in his hand," said Smith. "You don't expect a freshman to come in against a great ball club like Farmville and pitch his heart out.
"He's not a freshman anymore."
Robert Franks went 3-for-3 with an RBI and run scored while Smeltzer and Kendall both tallied two hits and an RBI to lead Rosewood (2-1).
The loss drops Farmville Central to 3-1 on the season.
"We came together as a team and did everything well today," said Smith. "Playing well at the beginning of the game and holding on, fighting, scratching and clawing helped us to our win today."
Farmville Central 000 201 0 -- 3 5 1
Rosewood 122 000 x -- 5 9 3
Leading Hitters -- Farmville Central -- Jordan Corbett 2-3, RBI; Will Rhem 2-3, 2 R; Robbie Jones 1-4, 2B, R. Rosewood -- Robert Franks 3-3, RBI, R; David Smeltzer 2-3, RBI; Goss Kendall 2-3, RBI, R.
LOB -- Farmville Central 5, Rosewood 9. S -- Neal 2, Hamilton. SF -- Allen.
IP H R ER BB SO
Davis (L) 21/3 6 5 4 1 1
Bagley 32/3 3 0 0 2 9
Neal (W, 1-1) 51/3 4 3 3 0 3
Richards (S, 2) 12/3 2 0 0 0 2
WP -- Bagley, Neal. PB -- Smeltzer, Albritton. HBP -- Davis (Rains)
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