SPRINGFIELD — Consider Rutherford’s 12-0 win over Florida High on Monday in the Panama City Invitational as baseball’s version of March Madness.
Perhaps that explanation best suits the Rams, who after surrendering 15 runs and 13 walks in a debacle against West Florida last week have reeled off 17 consecutive scoreless innings in three wins to move to 8-3.
Right-hander Cody Roby was the latest Rutherford pitcher to post a turnaround performance for the staff. And it came against a Seminole team (9-3) that had every batter in the lineup hitting at least .321, and with three players above .400.
The same order had accounted for an average of 10 runs scored per game, and that doesn’t even take into account Florida High’s bench.
Roby said he wasn’t aware of the challenge he was facing.
“No sir, I kind of could tell in the bullpen” that he would be sharp, especially with locating his breaking pitches. “Then I can throw it in any part of the count,” Roby said.
“We’ve all been focused in, and the past couple of games the defense has played a lot better.”
The Seminoles hit the ball hard early against Roby, but Rutherford’s infield made three strong plays and Dylan Bozeman’s second-inning double was negated when he was called out for missing first base.
Otherwise Roby allowed only Dakota Atkinson’s fourth-inning single. The Rams made all three of their errors in that inning, opposing coaches Jon Hudson of Rutherford and John Hollenbeck of Florida High already substituting liberally by that time.
The Rams hit the ball hard in the first two innings against seldom-used starter Atkinson, and Roby resultantly struck out five while not allowing a walk.
“That’s three shutouts in a row, our pitchers have the stuff to do it,” Hudson said. “I think when our pitchers throw strikes the defense plays better and the overall tempo of the game is better.”
Rutherford’s offensive firepower set the tone early. Dondrayas and Dondrell Harris each singled to start the home first and executed a double steal. Dallas Davis then lofted his first of two run-scoring sacrifice flies.
Nick Nelson doubled to deep center field, and with two outs Kendall Herron’s pop fly behind first base fell for a two-run single.
It became 7-0 in the second inning when Nelson, averaging a shade more than two RBIs per game through the first 10 games, was deprived of even more.
Dondrell Harris walked with one out and scored when Dallas Davis singled to center field. The ball got through Dennis Ratliff and rolled to the fence, also enabling Davis to circle the bases.
Nelson then stroked a solo blast to straightaway center that would have been a three-run homer if not for the error.
The Rams had enough for the run rule by the bottom of the third when the Seminoles went to their bullpen and wildness became an issue. Three Seminole pitchers walked eight batters and tossed five wild pitches in an overall outing that was an aberration for an otherwise solid ballclub.
In other games Monday, Gardendale defeated Heritage 7-5, Austin Bizzle pitched Mosley to its ninth consecutive win in an 8-0 triumph over Tallahassee Leon and Thompson scored nine runs in the second inning to turn back Arnold 10-6.
Today’s games pit Leon vs. Gardendale at noon, Thompson vs. Florida High at 2:30 p.m. Heritage vs. Mosley at 5 p.m. and Rutherford vs. Arnold at 7:30 p.m.
Thompson 10, Arnold 6
The Alabama school notched its 20th win of the season while Arnold remained stuck on 1 in its 10th defeat. After the top of the second inning, which featured Thompson (20-7) building a 10-1 lead, the Marlins were able to regroup.
Left-hander Devan Dutton relieved and pitched five scoreless innings and Arnold scored three runs in the fifth on an RBI walk to Juan Ulloa and Connor Montford’s two-run single.
Reed Yandel scored on a wild pitch and Sean Reichert’s infield single plated the final run of the game in the seventh.
Mason McDougall was the winning pitcher with relief help in the seventh from Daulton Greene and Trey Matherson.
Arnold coach Mitch Kelly was left wondering when his ballclub is going to put everything together.
“We’re struggling to find that spark, and I believe right now we’re at that point,” he said. “Devon did a real good job today considering that he didn’t even know he was going to pitch.”
- FloridaHigh 000 00 — 0 1 1
- Rutherford434 1x — 12 8 3
- Atkinson (L), Williams (3), Zigmont (4) and Deering, Baranovich (4); Roby (W) and Z.Davis.
- LOB: Florida High 2, Rutherford 4. E: Florida High (Ratliff), Rutherford (Thornton, Pope, Roby). 2B: Nelson. HR: Nelson. SB: Dy.Harris, Dl.Harris. SAC: Dl.Harris, SF: D.Davis 2, CS: Pope (by Deering). WP: Zigmont 2, Williams 2, Atkinson. PB: Deering. RBIs: Rutherford (D.Davis 2, Nelson 2, Herron 2, Mask, Dl.Harris).