By Jordan Kroeger, SunCoast Sports
PORT CHARLOTTE — It took until the second half for the aggression to kick in, but once it did, the Pirates surged.
Nate Ruth scored two second half goals while goalkeeper Hunter Cole saved nine shots to lead Port Charlotte High School to a 2-0 win over Ida Baker in its home opener Monday night.
Each team only took six shots on goal in the first half, but Port Charlotte (3-0) outshot Ida Baker (1-2) 19-15 in the final 40 minutes. The Pirates, who are a motivated squad after getting upset in last year’s district quarterfinals, have won three straight to begin the season.
“They have the skill. We were basically more aggressive than they were today, which was great for us,” Port Charlotte coach Joe Roca said.
Ruth finally broke the stalemate in the 55th minute when he received a pass from teammate Michael Balseca and put it into the net passed Ida Baker goalkeeper Gio Torres, who finished with nine saves.
That goal came just minutes after the Pirates put three consecutive shots on the net without converting a goal. They had one ball hit the crossbar, a rebound shot saved by Torres and then another rebound cleared away by a defender. But Roca told his players to continue to stay aggressive and the goals would come.
He was right.
“Coach had something to say at halftime about that and we just played better in the second half,” Ruth said.
Ruth put the game away in the 76th minute with his second goal when he corralled a ricocheted and sent it flying passed Torres to extend the lead to 2-0.
“That kid has been really impressive this year,” said Roca of Ruth.
So was Cole on Monday night, especially in a first half where the Bulldogs dominated possession. Both goalkeepers kept their teams in the game with solid defense all night considering the number shots they faced, but it was Cole that made some critical stops in the first 40 minutes — including a tip-save over the net — that held off the Bulldogs long enough for his offense to find its rhythm.
“Hunter has been so consistent. He doesn’t give up anything. Defensively, he’s a great goalie. He loves the game,” Roca said.
Torres didn’t even begin the night in the net for Ida Baker, but he was forced into action when starter Alex Buntrock went down with an injury in the 26th minute.
Buntrock jumped out of the goal to successful bat away a corner kick but landed awkwardly. He laid on the ground for a couple of minutes before walking off to the sideline under his own power but never returned.
Torres held his own for the next 29 minutes but he couldn’t stop a Port Charlotte attack that went from lackluster to ferocious in the second half, thanks in large part to Ruth.
“I told them in the second half you have to be more aggressive,” Roca said. “This was a tremendous win for us.”