By Chuck Ballaro, SunCoast Sports
PORT CHARLOTTE — Kyle Machado pitched five shutout innings and James Barnes delivered a two-run single in a three-run third inning as Charlotte High held off a seventh-inning rally by rival Port Charlotte for a 4-3 win Monday in a nondistrict game at the Pirates’ Cove.
For Port Charlotte, it was a case of what should have been as it left 12 runners on base, including the bases loaded after scoring three times in the seventh inning. Gibson Bittner struck out Jason James looking to end the game.
For Charlotte coach Lovell Cudjo, a win, no matter how tough, is still a win.
“I told the kids in the last three games we would make adjustments at the plate. We’d been taking too many strikes and tonight we swung the bats well,” Cudjo said. “We just kept competing.”
Charlotte (10-8) seemingly broke the game open in the third inning against Pirates starter Devin Rack. After loading the bases with none out, Robert Oettinger drove in the game’s first run with a sacrifice fly to right before Barnes, who went 2-for-4, plated two more runs for a 3-0 lead.
Aaron Martins made the score 4-0 in the fourth with another sacrifice fly, this one to left.
Meanwhile, Machado worked around trouble as the Pirates (9-14) put at least two runners on base in each of the first four innings. However, Machado made the big pitch and Charlotte got the big defensive play, including an inning-ending double play in the second, to keep Port Charlotte off the board.
“Kyle kept them off balance and gave us a chance by letting the defense play behind him,” Cudjo said. “That’s good pitching.”
Machado allowed five hits and three walks while striking out four. Jake Eastman pitched into the seventh, but the Pirates stormed back, loading the bases with nobody out in the seventh.
Bittner came on and allowed a two-run single to Matt Intihar to cut the lead in half with one out. A chopper from Tanner Beatty back to Bittner allowed another run to cut the lead to 4-3. Bittner loaded the bases with a pair of walks before finally ending it with the punchout.
For coach Zach Floyd, the stranded runners, and preparation, were the key.
“All season we haven’t brought them (runners) in. We didn’t come out ready to play today,” Floyd said. “It stinks for them because it’s your rival. But I’m proud of the way they battled.”
Garrett Dunson, Shane Lemaster and Martins also had two hits for Charlotte. Mark Rooney and Intihar had two hits for the Pirates.
CHARLOTTE 4, PORT CHARLOTTE 3
Charlotte 003 100 0 — 4 10 1
Port Charlotte 000 000 3 — 3 9 2
WP: Kyle Machado, LP: Devin Rack. Leading hitters: James Barnes (CH) 2-4, 2B, 2 RBI; Matt Inithar (PC) 2-4, 2 RBI. Records: Charlotte 10-8, Port Charlotte: 9-14.