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Riverfield clips Eagles’ wings in opener, 11-1

Walter Bliss, Porters Chapel Academy’s catcher, stomps his foot as he waits for the ball while Riverfield’s Jacob Smith slides into home. The AAA school from Rayville, La., won, 11-1, to spoil the Eagles’ opener. (The Vicksburg Post/MELANIE DUNCAN)

[03/06/01] The Porters Chapel Academy Eagles waited an extra six days to play their opening game. And after the way the Eagles played Monday night against Riverfield, they could have used a couple of extra days of practice.

A combination of rust from a weeklong layoff forced by last week’s rain, and some good old-fashioned nerves combined to send PCA to an 11-1 defeat to the Academy-AAA Raiders (1-0).

PCA (0-1) managed just one hit an infield single by Heath Smith in the sixth inning committed six errors, had three passed balls and four wild pitches, and spread 11 walks among six pitchers.

“We played real bad. We didn’t pitch well, we didn’t field well, we didn’t throw well and we didn’t hit well. And that’s just about everything involved in the game of baseball, and when you do everything as bad as we did, you can’t expect to beat anybody,” PCA coach Randy Wright said.

Jude Johnston drove in two runs for the Rayville, La., school and was one of three pitchers who shut down the PCA hitters. Riverfield starter Bud Rodgers threw three hitless innings to get the win, and Dusty Epinnette finished up with two innings of one-hit relief.

“We hadn’t practiced in two weeks. That might have had a little bit to do with it. We came out and we were fired up, maybe a little too much. We were nervous and fired up at the same time. Everybody was shaking before the game … You can be too overanxious,” said Smith, who also scored PCA’s only run on an RBI groundout by Walter Bliss.

PCA’s troubles started in the top of the second inning. A dropped third strike, the first of three singles by Riverfield catcher Jacob Smith and a botched bunt play loaded the bases with no one out

No. 9 hitter Heath Curry drew a bases-loaded walk to bring in the first run of the game, and right fielder Jarrod Grandon followed with a perfect squeeze bunt to score Smith and make it 2-0. An error on the throw to first allowed another run to score, however, and the Raiders pushed the lead to 5-0 by the end of the inning on an RBI single by Johnston and an RBI groundout by Rodgers.

“We jumped on them early and got some momentum, and it was nice. We may have shocked them a little bit. We shocked me,” said first-year Riverfield coach Neil Turner. “The squeeze play at the early part of the game kind of got the whole thing started. My whole coaching career, that’s the first squeeze play I’ve ever done … successfully.”

Two walks and a pair of errors in the third helped the Raiders extend the lead to 8-0 and put the game well out of reach.

PCA had runners on in all but two innings, thanks to four walks and two hit batters, but never could come up with the big hit to bring them around.

Wright blamed the layoff for the Eagles’ weak hitting.

“When you take that kind of time off in baseball, it messes with your timing. All of our hitters were behind everything tonight, our fielders weren’t throwing well, and things just didn’t click for us tonight,” Wright said. “But I’ll tell you one thing. I’ve always been told, it’s not how you start, it’s how you finish.”