The Chargers handed the Longhorns their first loss of the season in exciting fashion, running away with an 11-3 win.
Following big road wins over Plant City and Tampa Bay Tech, Strawberry Crest returned home last Thursday as they hosted the undefeated Lennard Longhorns, moving to 5-2 with a decisive 11-3 victory.
With senior UF commit Alex Philpott on the mound for Crest, Lennard opened the game with a base hit to right field, but that would be it for the Longhorns’ offense in the first as catcher Damien Bennett threw behind the runner at first on the next pitch, nabbing him for the first out of the contest by taking advantage of a big secondary lead that was too aggressive for the baserunner to recover from. Philpott followed up Bennett’s big play with a pair of strikeouts to end the first for Lennard. The Chargers then wasted no time jumping out on top as senior Jace Raburn led off the bottom of the frame with a base hit to right, subsequently stealing second before senior slugger Arjun Nimmala reached on a five-pitch walk. In the next at bat, junior Akhil Nimmala lofted a high fly ball to right center and reached safely as the routine pop up fell between the Lennard outfielders. With the bases loaded and no outs, senior Eli Vickers drew a full count and battled with foul ball after foul ball before eventually drawing a walk that pushed home the first run of the game. Freshman Toby Highsmith then grounded into a fielder’s choice to short, with the Longhorns getting the out at second before conceding another run, and Philpott followed Highsmith’s at bat with a fielder’s choice to shortstop as well, conceding the second out of the inning at second but beating the throw to first as the Chargers’ third run of the inning came across to score.
In the second, Lennard clawed their way back. After a hit by pitch put the Longhorns’ first hitter of the inning aboard, a steal attempt was negated with a rare batter’s interference call on Bennett’s attempted throw to second, leading to the batter being called out at the plate and the runner being sent back to first. A soft fly out to third marked the second out of the inning but Lennard mounted a crucial two-out rally. A passed ball allowed the runner to move into scoring position at second and a walk put runners on first and second. A base hit to right scored the first run of the inning and a huge double to the wall in left pushed two more home as the Longhorns knotted the contest up at 3-3 after two. But that would prove to be the extent of Lennard’s success at the plate, as the rest of the game was all Crest.
In the bottom of the second, Bennett reached safely as a ground ball off the end of the bat couldn’t be fielded cleanly, moving to second on a bunt from senior RayAllen Vasquez. A walk from Raburn put two runners on for Arjun Nimmala who wasted no time breaking the game open with a massive three-run home run to straight away left field, putting the Charger right back on top with a 6-3 lead. Akhil Nimmala then cracked a hard single to left, followed by a fielder’s choice from Vickers. Highsmith pushed Vickers to third on a base hit and Philpott used his speed to reach safely in the next at bat, forcing a rushed throw on a ground ball to third that pulled the first baseman off the bag and sent Vickers home to extend the Crest lead to 7-3 heading into the third. In the bottom of the third, Crest continued to pile on. After batting around in the second, Bennett once again led off for the Chargers and once again reached safely as a soft fly to shallow right fell between the Longhorns’ first and second basemen. Raburn later reached to give the Chargers runners on first and second with one out. Following a double steal that moved both runners to second and third, Arjun Nimmala was intentionally walked to load the bases, bringing up Akhil Nimmala who quickly responded with a base hit to left that drove in two more runs and pushed Arjun Nimmala to third. Vickers drove home Arjun Nimmala with a base hit to left and after three, Crest had built a resounding 10-3 lead over a Lennard team that entered the night at 5-0.
Senior Luke Richardson took the mound in the fourth where he turned in a stellar relief appearance that featured 2.2 scoreless innings with three strikeouts and just one run allowed. Crest added one more run in the fifth as Raburn reached on a base hit, moved to second on a passed ball, stole third and scored on yet another passed ball to give Crest the 11-3 lead they would cling to as junior pitcher Brayden Dicerb shut the door with a perfect 1.1 innings of work, retiring all four batters he faced while notching three strikeouts.