By Jordan Kroeger, SunCoast Sports
ENGLEWOOD — Two wins in two preseason games is a pretty good way to start the season.
But the Manta Rays will be the first to tell you they still have a lot to work on heading into next Tuesday’s season-opener against North Port.
Lemon Bay High School defeated Out-of-Door Academy 8-6 Friday night at Jack Llewellyn Field, but did so despite committing two errors and a few base-running mistakes. Luckily for the Manta Rays, the Thunder committed five errors in a game that clearly showed signs of a Preseason Classic.
“I have a headache. We’re hitting the ball good, we’re playing all right defensively, but we’re running the bases like a chicken with its head cut off,” said Lemon Bay coach Casey Hanrahan, whose team also defeated Cardinal Mooney Tuesday night. “It’s not stuff they don’t know. I know my players know what the right thing to do is, there’s just other elements to being in a game than in practice. It changes the way these boys play.
“But we won two, so I’m happy about that. I’ll take a win any day but we have a lot to improve on.”
Jacob Treece started on the mound for the Manta Rays and found himself in a 3-0 hole in the top of the first thanks to an error and RBI singles by Najee Rhodes and Hunter Bogumil. But his offense picked him right up in the bottom half of the inning with three runs of its own courtesy of a 2-RBI triple by Trey Fields and an RBI double by Josh Gossett.
Treece pitched just two innings, giving up two earned runs on five hits with two strikeouts. Duncan Capper got the start for the Thunder, surrendering three earned on four hits with six strikeouts.
Tom Willander replaced Capper after one batter in the third and Fields provided a warm welcome, crushing a pitch over the right field wall for a solo home run to put Lemon Bay in front 4-3.
“I was just going up there trying to see the ball well. With a new pitcher you always want to see what you’re doing,” said Fields, who finished 2-for-3 with 3 RBI. “The first pitch was a slider that I took right down the middle but then the next pitch he just left up and I took a swing on it and it happened to sail over.”
Our-of-Door Academy tied the game in the top of the fifth on Lemon Bay’s second error, but the Manta Rays scored four runs in the bottom half of the inning to pull away thanks to a lot of help from the Thunder.
After Owen Ragsdale loaded the bases with a single and two walks, Hayden Kennelly came in in relief and immediately walked in a run to allow Lemon Bay to take a 5-4 lead. Two straight errors then allowed Treece, Zach Taylor and Tyler Kreissler to all score to put the Manta Rays up 8-4.
Ragsdale took the loss for the Thunder while Brandon Gielow picked up the win for the Manta Rays. Gielow struck out five batters in two innings of relief and didn’t give up an earned run.
“Pitching wise we’re in good shape right now I think,” Hanrahan said. “We have about 10 guys we can put on the mound and most of the time they’ll throw strikes. That’s a luxury to have. There’s not many teams that can say that.”
Flynn Stewart relieved Gielow and allowed the Thunder to score two runs in the sixth on a wild pitch and an RBI single by Cam Smalley. Cole Dukes picked up the save with two strikeouts in the seventh.
“Coming out of the preseason with two wins, that’s definitely a bonus for us,” Hanrahan said.
LEMON BAY 8, OUT-OF-DOOR ACADEMY 6
Out-of-Door Academy 300 021 0 — 6 7 5
Lemon Bay 301 040 x — 8 7 2
WP: Brandon Gielow. LP: Owen Ragsdale. S: Cole Dukes. Leading Hitters: Trey Fields (LB) 2-3, 3 RBI, HR, 3B, 2R; Josh Gossett (LB) 2-3, RBI, 2B, BB; Cam Smalley (ODA) 2-4, RBI, 1R; Hunter Bogumil 2-4, RBI, 1R