The Statesboro baseball team opened its season Wednesday night at Mill Creek Regional Park looking to fill the shoes left by seven starters on offense and an almost completely new pitching staff. That’s a tough enough challenge, let alone trying to figure those things out against defending state Class AA champion Jeff Davis. The Blue Devils had some bright moments, but not enough, as Statesboro fell 2-0.
“It was a great defensive ballgame,” said Statesboro coach Jim Simmons. “Both runs were unearned, and we played hard out there.”
Jeff Davis started the scoring in the top of the second. Britt Metts sent a fly ball to left field that was dropped, allowing him to advance to second. The next batter was Caleb Chaney, who drove a double down the right field line. Metts scored and it was 1-0 Yellow Jackets.
Statesboro rallied in the bottom of the second as with one out, Mikal Mascarello singled to left. Harrison Hughes came in to pinch run and advanced to second on a bad throw on a pick off attempt. With two outs, Austin Arendes singled to left. Hughes was waved home, but was thrown out by several steps to put an end to the Devils' scoring threat.
From there, it was a pitching duel. The Yellow Jacket trio of Ross Rush, Garrett Baucom and Caleb Leggett held Statesboro hitless after the second inning, and combined to rack up 12 strikeouts. The Blue Devil pitching was solid as well, allowing only two unearned runs.
“I thought we pitched well tonight,” Simmons said. “We threw a lot of strikes, and the pitchers had faith in their stuff and we kept it in the zone. I thought we made the plays in the field for the most part, but we have to become more aggressive at the plate.”
The Yellow Jackets tacked on an insurance run in the sixth. Bryce Westerfield hit leadoff batter Colby Marchant, who was replaced by pinch runner Christian Torres. Torres took second on a passed ball and then advanced to third on a ground out. Caleb Chaney then brought Torres home on a deep sacrifice fly to center to make the score 2-0.
Leggett worked a perfect sixth and seventh for the Yellow Jackets striking, out three and securing the Jeff Davis victory.
“Not to take anything away from their pitchers — who did a great job — we have to have more aggressive at bats to create more scoring opportunities.” said Simmons. “Our guys have good swings. Our coaches have done a great job on their mechanics. Now their approach just needs to be more aggressive.”
On the mound, Statesboro used Dalton Ross, Mascarello, Bradley Gronefeld, Cole Leggett, Ashton Bradley, Eddie Mitchell, Bryce Westerfield and Wright Rocket. The revolving door of fresh arms combined to allow three hits and struck out six Yellow Jacket batters.
The Blue Devils' schedule is packed as the season gets underway. Statesboro's junior varsity squad heads up the road today for a doubleheader with Screven County starting at 4:30 p.m. before the varsity resumes play with a 6 p.m. showdown against Southeast Bulloch in Brooklet Friday evening.