By Jordan Kroeger, SunCoast Sports
NORTH PORT — North Port’s annual Blue & Silver game turned into a barn burner early Tuesday afternoon.
At least for the Bobcats.
North Port used a five-run third inning to blow open a close game on the way to a 10-6 win over rival Lemon Bay on opening day.
In a matter of 25 minutes, the Bobcats went from down 3-2 to up 8-3.
“Anytime you can get a win to start the season it’s a good thing,” North Port coach Dan Pavlue said. “I was happy with the way they played. They came out, found themselves with their backs against the wall early and responded well.”
Brandin Muniz led the offense with a 2-for-2 day, including a three-run double in the third that broke a 3-3 tie. His bases-clearing hit also knocked Lemon Bay starter Trey Fields from the game after just five outs.
Fields was saddled with the loss, giving up eight runs — five earned on seven hits with four strikeouts. Charlie Topp picked up the win as North Port’s starter, surrendering three runs — two earned — on seven hits with a pair of strikeouts and walks as well as a hit batter.
Charlie Davidson finished things off for the Bobcats, pitching the final three innings with two earned runs and another unearned on his record. He struck out three and walked two.
“I think we have things to clean up, but overall they did enough to get a win,” Pavlue said of his pitchers. “That’s all I can ask for. But like I said, we have room for improvement, but overall they went out and they competed and they played hard and got us a victory.”
The Manta Rays had a short-lived lead, striking for two runs in the top of the second when Cole Dukes delivered an RBI single before John Sweiderk scored on an error. But the Bobcats scored three runs in the bottom half of the inning on an error, an RBI double by Patrick Smith and a sacrifice fly by Muniz.
Throwing errors allowed Dominic Lefever and Smith to both score in the inning.
“We had 12 base hits, but the thing is, our errors and our walks weighed a lot today. They heavily weighed,” Lemon Bay coach Casey Hanrahan said. “You take a couple of plays there and it’s a completely different ball game. But I’m happy with the way we’re swinging the bat, for the most part.
“Our pitchers are keeping it low and throwing strikes, we’ve just got to find ways to stop the bleeding when the other team is starting to put up runs for a big inning.”
Smith, who scored twice on the afternoon, went 2-for-3 and also had an RBI single in the fourth to put North Port up 9-3 after Dukes gave Lemon Bay a run back in the top of the inning on a single.
Dukes went 2-for-4 with a pair of runs knocked in.
The teams exchanged runs again in the fifth when Jacob Treece singled in a run for Lemon Bay before Davidson stole home for North Port’s final run.
Treece went 2-for-2 and also had an RBI double in the seventh. Chace Shork also had a pinch-hit RBI single for Lemon Bay in the final inning.
The Manta Rays could have had runners on the corners with one out in the seventh down 10-6, but Treece got caught rounding too far off of third base on Shork’s single and was thrown out. Davidson then ended the game with a strikeout.
NORTH PORT 10, LEMON BAY 6
Lemon Bay 020 110 2 — 6 12 2
North Port 035 110 x — 10 12 3
WP: Charlie Topp. LP: Trey Fields. Leading hitters: (NP) Brandin Muniz 2-2, 4 RBI, 2B, R; Patrick Smith 2-3, 2 RBI, 2B, 2 R; (LB) Cade Dukes 2-4, 2 RBI; Jacob Treece 2-2, 2 RBI, 2B. Records: North Port 1-0; Lemon Bay 0-1.