SAND HILLS — Rutherford has a habit of playing up to the competition around this time of year, especially during the Panama City Invitational high school baseball tournament it hosts every March.
Tuesday at Bozeman was the latest version of that theme, as right-hander Heath Holmes and the Rams handcuffed Tennessee perennial power Farragut (Knoxville area) 7-0 in the opening game of the 10th annual event.
Rutherford coach Jon Hudson acknowledged that rising to the occasion, and sometimes the opposite, has been hit team’s DNA in recent seasons.
“They were excited today, they knew about (Farragut’s) tradition” of reaching the state finals in 10 of the past 13 years, Hudson said. “Heath came out and threw strikes and we were able to get some bunts down and be more complete offensively.”
It also was noteworthy that Rutherford (7-2) was playing its ninth game of the season while the Admirals (2-2) have been plagued with weather far more limiting than Bay County has experienced.
The Tennessee school was competitive except for the bottom of the fourth inning when the Rams first six batters all reached and scored. AJ Thornton and Nick Nelson each had two-run singles in the uprising as a 1-0 lead expanded to 7-0.
That enabled Holmes to coast through a four-hitter. He needed 91 pitches while working out of trouble in the third and fifth innings to cement the shutout.
“For him to be effective he’s got to throw all three of his pitches for strikes,” Hudson said of Holmes, who didn’t make it out of the second inning in his prior start. “He’s so mentally tough. He’s a black belt (martial artist) and when he locates he can throw like this.”
Bo Baker was the losing pitcher for the Admirals. He walked Jacquez Koonce top open Rutherford’s first and consecutive singles by Nelson, Tyler Broxson and Dallas Davis produced a 1-0 lead.
Cole Morgan singled, John Painter walked and Tanner Thomas sacrificed both runners into scoring position in Farragut’s third. Holmes retired Nos. 1 and 2 hitters Sam Schulze and Gabe Waldrop to end that threat, and one inning later the Rams knocked out Baker.
Farragut helped stoke the six-run explosion with a pair of infield errors around a walk. Reliever Dylan Pacifico entered with the bases loaded and no outs.
Kendall’s safety squeeze bunt went for an infield hit, Dakota McWilliams laced a drive to the corner in deep left field that went for a long RBI single when the runners initially had to hold up and Thornton bounced a two-run single through the middle. Nelson’s opposite-field single added two more runs before the Rams were retired.
Holmes issued two of his three walks to open Farragut’s fifth, but recovered to preserve his shutout despite Schulze’s line single that loaded the bases.
Nelson, Davis and Thornton each had two hits for Rutherford, which totaled nine singles. Morgan had half of the Farragut’s four hits.
Wednesday’s PCI schedule finds Arnold vs. Ensworth at noon, Rutherford vs. Father Ryan at 2:30 p.m., Bay vs. Mandarin at 5 p.m., and Mosley vs. Farragut at 7:30 p.m.
Farragut 000 000 0 — 0 4 3
Rutherford 100 600 X — 7 9 0
Baker (lp), Pacifico (4) and Mascia; Holmes (wp) and Leno.
LOB : Farragut 7, Rutherford 7. E: Farragut (Pence, Baker, Schulze). DP: Farragut 6-4-3. SAC: Farragut (Thomas), Rutherford (Leno, Koonce). WP: Farragut (Pacifico). RBI: Rutherford (Nelson 2, Thornton 2, Broxson, Leno, McWilliams).