AUBURNDALE, Fla. – The Suffolk baseball team started out hot, but could not maintain the momentum as Clark came back to take down the Rams, 7-5, in their season opener at Friday afternoon at Lake Myrtle Park at the RussMatt Central Florida Invitational.
SCORE: Suffolk 5 | Clark 7
RECORDS: Suffolk (0-1) | Clark (3-3)
HOW IT HAPPENED
Worth Walrod dealt a one-two-three top of the first punctuated with back-to-back punchouts swinging to set-up what would be a thrilling offensive first frame from the blue-and-gold.
Rich Gilbride got the Rams' bats going with a lead-off single to left. The junior wouldn't remain on base long thanks to Will Hopkins triple that brought the shortstop home. Trevor Lee kept the hit rally going with a single that scored Hopkins. Three batters later Lee lengthened Suffolk's lead to three on a 53 ground out by Rich Giandrea after working his way around the diamond on a two-hopper to short and an error by the Cougars' third baseman Andrea Cassabianca.
Walrod threw another two-out inning in the second to hold Clark off and Gilbride's bat once again had an effect in the home half of the inning. This time, the junior sent a two-out, solo shot to extend the Rams' advantage to four.
Each was retired in order in the third and Clark's comeback began in the fourth as the visitors produced four runs on four hits to level the playing field at 4-all.
Walks and errors cost the Rams blue-and-gold infield in the top of the fifth and the Cougars took advantage to flip the script in their favor, 6-4. Tyler Zell came out of the pen to relieve Walrod and the senior collected the final two outs of the inning to keep the damage at just a pair of runs.
Suffolk looked to make up ground, but lost its grove and Clark padded its cushion with an additional run in the sixth to make it a three-run distance, 7-4.
Now it was time for the Rams to trim the margin and they did so in the bottom of the seventh. With one out, Shane Lake produced his first hit of the season, a single through the left side, advanced to second on a sac bunt by designated hitter Ben Isaak and scored on Gilbride's base hit to left center to trim the margin back to two, 7-5.
A scoreless eighth set-up a nail biting ninth. Down two, Giandrea got things going for the Rams with a single. Clark made a change on the mound as Dan Shaw came in to keep Suffolk quiet. The reliver did just that with a fielder's choice, followed by a foul out to first. Isaak kept the Rams' alive with a walk, but Gilbride's went down swinging to seal to seal the opening day setback.
- Walrod suffered the loss despite a six-strikeout day. The southpaw gave up six runs, four earned, on five hits and six walks over 4.2 innings of action.
- Zell worked 4.1 frames of relief in which he allowed one run on three hits and a pair of walks to go with three Ks.
- Nick Guarino's five-run (four earned), seven-hit, one-walk, four-strikeout effort was enough for the win for Clark.
- Shaw earned the save after coming out of the pen for the final three outs of the day.
- Gilbride led the way at the plate. He went 3-for-5 with one homer, two RBI and two runs scored.
- Hopkins and Lee each produced one hit, one RBI and one run.
- Giandrea registered one hit and one RBI.
- Lake rounded out the Rams' seven hits one with to go with one run scored.
- Suffolk renewed a rivalry with Clark, meeting the Cougars for the first time in the Anthony Del Prete era.
- Gilbride tied a career-high three hits and hit his second jack as a Ram.
Suffolk is back in action tomorrow, Saturday, March 9 with its first twinbill of the season against Wentworth. Game one of the doubleheader is set for a 9:30 a.m. first pitch at Laky Myrtle Park in Auburndale, Florida.