Landon Brown and Tyler Keenan drove in four runs apiece to power Cleveland to a 13-3 victory over Garner in six innings Wednesday night in the season opener for both baseball teams.
Brown had an RBI single in the Rams’ three-run second inning and ended the game with a bases-loaded drive to the wall in left field for a three-run double and a 13-3 Cleveland lead.
“The one thing I am most proud of is our hitting,” Cleveland coach Jamie Lee said. “Those first four runs were timely hits. … I was worried. A lot of times, early in the year, the pitching is ahead of the hitting. It worked out for us tonight.”
The Rams, 12-11 last season when they tied for third in the Two River 3A Conference, have a junior-laden team. Many of the Rams starters Wednesday were members of a 19-1 junior varsity squad in 2014.
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“We’re a young team,” Lee said. “I’ve got 10 juniors and they all play except for one. We have good senior leadership as well.”
Junior left-hander Ryan Flores, one of those players who was on the JV team last season, started on the mound for Cleveland and pitched well. He struck out seven in 4 2/3 innings and gave up just one unearned run to pick up the win. Brennan Linfield went the rest of the way for Cleveland.
Flores pitched out of a jam in the fourth. The first Trojans batter, Cody Jones, reached on an error and scored on an RBI single by Jack Elliott. Garner loaded the bases with no outs, getting a couple of walks, but Flores settled down and struck out two straight batters and got out of the inning with just one run when Brodie West grounded back to the mound.
“I wanted him to throw 80 pitches, so we took him with two outs in the fifth,” Lee said. “He did a good job.”
Both teams have had a hard time getting on their fields to practice because of the recent wintry weather that closed schools for days at a time. The Trojans showed more rust, making six errors.
Cleveland banged out 12 hits, with Brown, Keenan and Avery Dean getting two hits apiece.
“We only had a handful of (pitching) innings coming back,” Garner coach Derik Goffena said. “We got beat 13-3 and gave up 10 unearned runs. We ended up with (six) errors and walked a bunch of people (six walks and one hit batter). I’ve been doing this for a long time. You aren’t going to win games doing that.
“(Cleveland) played well. It seemed like whenever we made and error and walked somebody, they would get a big hit.”
Keenan had two straight big hits for the Rams. In the second inning, he belted a line drive to right field to score two runs and five the Rams a 4-0 lead. In the fourth, he grounded a single through the right side of the infield to score two more and push the advantage to 6-0.
Cleveland added a pair of runs in the fifth on a pair of infield hits, a Garner error and a pair of bases-loaded walks.
They kept swinging the bats, scoring five in the sixth to end it. Garner made a pair of errors in the inning and Brown capitalized with his three-run double.
Garner got two hits from Grayson Lee. All three of Garner’s runs were unearned. The Trojans finished with four hits.