Blue Eagles come out swinging in opening games
By By SCOTT COOPER – Sports Writer
The W.S. Neal Blue Eagles began the 2003 baseball season in style, as they notched two victories over the visiting Hillcrest Jaguars in a double-header played March 4.
In the opener, the Blue Eagles fell behind early and by a wide margin only to mount a determined comeback to secure the victory. The second game was all Neal, as the Blue Eagles jumped on top in the first inning and continued battering the Jaguars over the course of the entire game.
W.S. Neal 9, Hillcrest 8
Although the Blue Eagles entered the March 4 opening game of the season with an abundance of talent and high expectations, for the first three innings it appeared their opener might end with a loss.
Hillcrest came out of the starting gate pounding the ball while building a substantial advantage early before the Blue Eagles got untracked offensively and overtook the lead.
Scoring two runs in both the first and second innings before adding another three runs in the third, the Jaguars led 7-1 before the Blue Eagles' bats came to life in the bottom of the third inning.
Cody Anthony got the rally started with a double and then Daniel Hodge reached on a walk before Paul Crabtree's two-RBI double cut the deficit to 7-3. Then, Brad Jerkins came to the plate and lashed a double that drove Crabtree home and pulled Neal closer at 7-4.
The Blue Eagles kept the offensive onslaught going in the fourth inning. After the Hillcrest pitching staff walked in a run, Hodge laced a two-RBI single to tie the game, 7-7. Hodge then scored on a passed ball later in the inning to give the Blue Eagles an 8-7 lead.
Hillcrest manufactured a run in the fifth inning to knot the score at 8-8, but Neal came back in the sixth to regain the advantage.
Anthony reached first base on an error before stealing second and moving to third on a passed ball. Crabtree's sacrifice fly allowed Anthony to come home for a 9-8 Blue Eagles' lead.
As the Jaguars came to bat in the top of the seventh, they needed to score to send the game into extra innings. It appeared they might do just that, as they loaded the bases with only one out. However, Chad McCall closed the door on the Hillcrest rally with two consecutive strikeouts that preserved the 9-8 Neal win.
McCall earned the win in a relief role, going four innings while allowing three hits and striking-out four.
Offensive leaders for Neal were Brad Jerkins, 2-for-3 with one RBI; Paul Crabtree, 1-for-3 with two RBIs; Daniel Hodge, 1-for-3 with two RBIs; Cody Anthony, 1-for-3 with three runs scored and Cory Freeman, 1-for-3.
W.S. Neal 11, Hillcrest 1
Unlike the hard-earned victory the Blue Eagles secured in the first game, the nightcap was a game that can only be described as a dominating Neal win.
While starting pitcher Paul Crabtree was tossing a no-hitter, the Neal bats sizzled for five innings before the game was called due to the 10-run rule.
After Crabtree kept the Jaguars' bats silent in the top of the first inning, Nick Benjamin singled to get a Neal rally started in the bottom half of the inning. Benjamin stole both second and third bases before crossing home plate on a Daniel Hodge fielder's choice.
Crabtree continued to master the Hillcrest batters in the top of the second, recording three consecutive strikeouts that allowed the Blue Eagles to maintain a 1-0 advantage.
After Neal failed to score in the bottom of the second, Crabtree once again put the clamps on Hillcrest's offense in the top of the third.
With a huge offensive explosion in the bottom of the third, the Blue Eagles place themselves in a secure position. Cody Anthony's three-RBI double, Brad Jerkins' two-RBI single and Chad McCall's one-RBI base hit led the way to eight Neal runs that all but put the game out of reach at 9-0.
The Neal advantage escalated to 10-0 in the fourth inning, as Keith Woods led a rally with a triple before scoring on a Derek Smith sacrifice fly.
Hillcrest scored an unearned run in the top of the fifth to reduce the Blue Eagles' lead to 10-1, but then Neal answered with a run in the bottom of the inning that forced the game to be called due to the 10-run rule.
Hodge put himself in scoring position after drawing a walk and stealing second and third bases. Brennan Beasley then ended the game with an RBI-single that drove Hodge home for an 11-1 Neal win.
Crabtree went the distance to earn the win, pitching a masterful no-hitter while striking-out ten.
Leaders at the plate for the Blue Eagles were Chad McCall, 2-for-2 with one RBI; Cody Anthony, 1-for-2 with three RBIs; Brad Jerkins, 1-for-2 with two RBIs; Nick Benjamin, 1-for-1 with three runs scored and Keith Woods, 1-for-1.