SOUTH BEND — It was a rough beginning for Plymouth’s Pilgrims as they opened the new baseball season on the road at St. Joe dropping a 12-5 decision.
A very young Pilgrim squad hit the field with nearly every player in their first varsity contest.
“Everyone but two guys this was their first varsity start,” said Plymouth head coach Ryan Wolfe. “Our expectation every night when we get off the bus is to win the game but we knew there would be some growing pains. We knew we’d have to fight through some things.”
In spite of “fighting through some things,” the Pilgrims found themselves in a ball game until St. Joe blew it open in the third with five runs off starter Skylar Aker and added four more in the fourth off Tanner Feece in relief.
Aker had a solid first varsity start giving up just two hits until he tired in the third and Bryce Lesher blasted a 2-0 fastball to dead center for a two-run homer.
Feece struggled to find the plate in his three innings but managed to work his way out of a big jam in the sixth to keep the Pilgrims in the game.
“He’s (Aker) usually sharp and that’s what happens when you give free bases,” said Wolfe. “It’s more pitches for our pitcher. We knew he was going to go a max of four anyway and when his pitch count got up there we went ahead and pulled him.”
“He’s a guy who throws strikes and doesn’t put free guys on base,” said Wolfe. “Both the guys we saw tonight (Aker and Feece) are going to be a big part of anything that we do this season so obviously we want to get them out there and work those jitters out.”
Meanwhile, St. Joe starter Kyle Tupper seemed to get stronger as the game went on until he got tired in the fourth, surrendering two Plymouth runs spurred by a Matt Manzuk double.
The three-run inning put the Pilgrims back within striking distance at 7-3.
Left-hander Carson Collins came on and was masterful for two innings but ran into some tough luck in the seventh as the Pilgrims were able to plate two more but it was not nearly enough.
“Overall we did some good things,” said Wolfe. “We hit the ball well, and we’re going to focus on the list of things that we have to get better at. That’s why you practice.”
“We ran the bases well,” he said. “We have a lot of baseball kids on this team who understand the game. You go up against a veteran group (St. Joe) who’s already got a couple of games under their belt, it’s not an excuse but our guys will get there.”
Matt Dobuck was 3-4 on the night for Plymouth.
The Pilgrims are 0-1 and are back in action on Friday with South Central coming to Bill Nixon Field for a 4:15 p.m. scheduled start.
•ST. JOE 12, PLYMOUTH 5
at St. Joe
Plymouth 0 0 0 3 0 0 2 5-9-4
St. Joe 0 2 5 4 0 1 x 12-9-2
WP — Tupper. LP — Aker (0-1). HR — Lesher (SJ). 2B — Leshur (SJ), Stawski (SJ), Manzuk (P).