St. Anne’s-Belfield honored a quartet of senior players before Tuesday afternoon’s contest against Fork Union, and their contributions came early and often to propel the Saints to end a three-game skid with a 9-6 win in the opener of this week’s home-and-home series with the Blue Devils.
The four members of the Class of 2018 batted first, third, fourth, and ninth in the order and accounted for six runs scored, five hits, and four RBI. A senior also earned the win on the mound, though it wasn’t Will Hass, who wore the catcher’s mask all night after pitching Monday against Miller. Instead, with the game tied and the leadoff runner on in the top of the sixth, Virginia-bound Nic Kent got the call from shortstop and tossed two hitless innings.
“We were a little light on the mound today, but everyone’s going through the same stuff in the deep part of the season,” said STAB coach Brian Yeagle. “You’ve got to rely on some other guys to get the job done. Dylan and Wayt did a great job tonight. We put Nick out there to kind of stop the bleeding.”
In a game where pitchers had, to that point, combined to issue 12 walks, uncork five wild pitches, and hit three batsmen, Kent appeared intent on picking up the pace and tossing it over the plate. He got ahead 1-2 against FUMA’s cleanup batter before coaxing a liner toward first, where senior Jack Pausic made the grab and beat the wandering runner back to the base for an unassisted double play.
“I was just trying to throw strikes,” said Kent. “We have a good fielding team, so I’d let them put the ball in play and hope our players would make plays on it.”
The Saints had the top of their order due up in the bottom of the sixth, with none other than Kent as the leadoff batter. He lifted a fly ball to right-center which fell in before either fielder could reach the spot, and their momentarily-scary collision yielded a triple before an errant throw over third base allowed Kent to score his third run of the game.
“I got ahead in the count so was just looking for my pitch,” Kent said. “Got a little bit under it, but still ran it out.”
Junior Alex Markopoulos and Hass followed up with home runs over the wall in left, and STAB took a three-run lead to the top of the seventh. Kent allowed a leadoff walk on a full count, but then got a couple of ground balls and a fly out to right to end it.
The pivotal sixth and seventh inning performance bookended a hot start, both for Kent and the Saints as a whole. Sophomore Dylan Burleson got the start and made it once through the Blue Devils’ order over the first two innings with no runs allowed and just one hit. He worked out of a bases-loaded, one-out-jam in the second with a groundout and strikeout looking. Meanwhile, the offense opened a 5-0 lead, starting with Kent’s leadoff home run just left of center.
“I had two strikes, so I was just staying short to it,” said Kent. “He left a curve a little bit up, so I was just trying to put it in play.”
STAB manufactured four runs in the second thanks in large part to three walks, a wild pitch, and a fielding error. Senior Jackson Mullins had the lone hit, an RBI single just to right of second base.
FUMA broke through in the third as Burleson’s control started to falter. A leadoff plunk of Drew Hackenberg led to a run after a subsequent walk, passed ball, and wild pitch. After another walk, Carter Crawford doubled in two. The damage might have been extended but Crawford was picked off by Hass’s throw from behind the plate to second base during the next at-bat.
FUMA pulled even at 5-5 in the fourth inning when Wayt Timberlake took over on the mound and started with a pair of walks and a wild pitch. Luke Wilson lifted a sac fly to right, and then Brant Lowry came through with an RBI single. The Blue Devils grabbed a lead in the fifth after Derrick Teeter led off with a single and number-9 hitter John Henry drove him in with a double to deep center.
“Credit to them, they didn’t give up,” Yeagle said. “That’s what they do. They beat Collegiate that way last week.”
STAB’s offense awoke in the bottom of the inning with doubles by Hass and Timberlake to make it 6-6. After issuing a leadoff walk in the sixth, Timberlake gave way to Kent and shifted back out to center field.
The squads will face off again in Fork Union on Friday afternoon.