GAINESVILLE — Pinecrest Academy’s baseball team was forced to take its lumps last season with six freshmen thrust into starting roles and only one senior on the roster.
One year later, a more experienced Paladins squad is showing a knack for weaving its way out of danger.
Lakeview Academy could only anguish over its missed opportunities on Monday, after it committed five errors and stranded 15 baserunners in a 6-5 loss to Pinecrest in Gainesville.
"They’re more developed," Pinecrest coach Daniel Stockdale said of his players’ growth over the past year. "They’re faster, they’re stronger, they’re more aggressive at the plate."
Junior right-hander Dakota Chalmers gave the Lions (1-4, 0-1 Region 8-A) a solid starting pitching performance, allowing four hits, four walks and a hit batsman while striking out 11 in six innings of work.
The Paladins (5-4, 3-4), however, tagged Chalmers for all six of their runs — four with two outs — with the help of the Lions’ errors. Lakeview also allowed a pair of runs on pitches that skipped to the backstop.
"Dakota Chalmers is an all-state player (with) a fastball that touches the 90s and an unbelievable curveball," Stockdale said. "We were just able to go out and be aggressive against him, and that’s really what the difference was."
Lakeview led 3-2 going into the fourth inning and tied the game 4-4 in the bottom of the frame, after Pinecrest took the lead in the top half.
The Paladins struck the deciding blow in the top of the sixth when Anthony Carco lined a two-out, two-run triple to center field.
The Lions got one of those runs back in the bottom of the inning on an RBI ground out by Christopher Ball, but stranded the tying and winning runs on base in the bottom of the seventh.
Lakeview stranded two or more runners on base in each inning.
"Our defense was our nemesis today," Lakeview Academy coach Deuce Roark said.
"In one-run ball games your defense is the difference, and then we just left a lot of people on base. Those two don’t combine real well for an outcome of a game.
"We’ve got a lot of guys who are consistently starting who may have spot-started last year, but now they’re starting every day. There’s a grind to learning how to play every day and bring your best game every day."
Pinecrest used four pitchers on the day. While no one turned in a dominant performance for the Paladins on the mound, Stockdale was pleased with the way his relievers responded to being called upon early in the game.
"(Starting pitcher) Todd Mahaffey is our ace," Stockdale said. "Today he just had a little funk ... but he’s our ace and we’ll go back to him.
"Connor Ettmueller came in and kept the game close, and we were able to rely on our senior arms in Anthony Carco and Garrett Kliphouse to bring us on home."