After seeing their season come to an end one game short of a Final Four appearance last year against the Gryphons, the Chargers returned to Sickles on Tuesday where they opened their season with a 2-0 loss.
After a stellar 2022 season that included their fourth consecutive district championship, Strawberry Crest ultimately saw their season end at the hands of Sickles in a 5-0 regional final. On Tuesday the Chargers returned to Sickles in hopes of revenge to start their season, but were held off the scoreboard again as they fell 2-0.
After the Chargers’ first three hitters went down in order, Alex Philpott took the mound for Crest. After posting a 4-3 record with six saves in 2022, the 6 foot 5, hard-throwing righty signed his national letter of intent with the University of Florida earlier this month.
In a rocky start for Philpott, he took the first two batters he faced to full counts before a one-out base hit up the middle gave Sickles a quick 1-0 lead, but a strikeout looking and a ground out to second got the Chargers out of the inning with minimal damage done.
With two outs in the top of the second, the Chargers began to string together a threat of their own as freshman outfielder Dillon Knight roped a single up the middle, stole second and moved to third on a perfect bunt down the third base line from freshman Ray Llanes. But with runners on first and third with two outs, Sickles ultimately worked out of the jam with a crucial strikeout to end the frame.
Philpott allowed one runner in the bottom of the second and another in the bottom of the fourth, but left them stranded without much trouble as the Chargers were still left searching for their offense to push the game-tying run across. After a four-pitch walk opened the bottom of the fifth, the night ended for Philpott as senior Zach Redner took the mound in relief. Back-to-back base hits to start the outing pushed a second run across for Sickles, giving them a 2-0 lead late, but Redner responded with a strikeout and a pair of flyouts to escape the inning.
Crest opened the top of the sixth with a pair of strikeouts, but once again looked to mount a rally with two outs as one of the nation’s top high school prospects, FSU signee Arjun Nimalla, punched a single through the left side, stealing second before Redner reached base safely as he battled with two strikes before being hit by the 2-2 offering in his subsequent at bat. But despite another scoring opportunity for the Chargers, the two-out disadvantage once again proved too much overcome as Sickles starter Caden McDonald tacked on another pressure-packed strikeout to end his scoreless night after six innings of work.
After Redner surrendered a leadoff single to start the bottom of the sixth, he sat the next three hitters down in order to bring the Chargers up for their last chance to draw the contest even, but Crest was unable to ever kickstart the offense as they fell to 0-1 in a 2-0 shutout loss.
The Chargers will return to action on Thursday as they look to get into the win column with their first victory of the year against the King Lions.