Pinecrest Academy baseball coach Daniel Stockdale has a solid group of freshmen to mold over the next four years. For now, however, those freshmen are taking the lumps that come along with being thrust into key roles in a small program.
Pinecrest got off to a good start against Providence but fell victim to its own mistakes in an 8-4 loss on Thursday at Father’s Field.
Eight of the 14 players on the Paladins’ roster this season are freshmen, including two of the team’s three starting pitchers.
"It’s tough on the pitching staff with young arms," Stockdale said. "Every night we’re starting five freshmen [in the field as well]. It’s a good opportunity for them and a good opportunity for our ballclub to become better in the future.
"We’re a very young team that’s doing things the right way and we hope for future success."
Pinecrest (2-6, 1-4 Region 8-A) took a 1-0 lead in the first inning when freshman cleanup hitter Matthew Walters (2-for-3, 2B, 3B, 2 RBI) drove in Jimmy Strom with a double to right field.
Paladins freshman left-handed pitcher Todd Mahaffey (4 1/3 IP, 1 K, 4 R, 3 BB, 3 H) retired seven of the first eight batters he faced before Providence tied the game in the third inning. Mahaffey ran into more trouble in the fourth when he issued a pair of leadoff walks and committed a balk that put both runners in scoring position, setting up a two-run single that put the Storm on top 3-1.
Stockdale went to the bullpen after Mahaffey surrendered a leadoff double in the fifth, but Providence (1-7, 1-1) padded its lead to 7-1 over the next two innings.
"I felt like our team went flat there [in the fifth]," Stockdale said. "We started making defensive mistakes on a bunt and a couple balls up the middle that we probably could have gotten to, and [Providence] did a good job capitalizing on the mistakes."
Pinecrest’s offense found a spark in the bottom of the sixth, as Thomas Ross and Josh Oshinski delivered RBI singles on each side of an RBI triple by Walters, cutting the gap to 7-4.
Providence tacked on an insurance run in the seventh with the help of two Pinecrest errors before running into defensive trouble of its own in the bottom of the frame.
The Paladins brought the tying run to the plate in the bottom of the inning after loading the bases with the help of a pair of errors, but Ross struck out to end the game.
Pinecrest was set to host George Walton on Saturday and is scheduled to host Lakeview Academy on Tuesday and Hebron Christian Academy on Friday.