High School Baseball
Lions stray off course in season home opener
by Chris Goltermann
Of the lessons Trinity Christian head baseball coach Brian Chmielewski hoped his Lions could learn early in the 2014 season, one near the top of the list was learning what it takes to win games.
And for three innings of Tuesday’s season opener at Stratford Academy, it looked as if Trinity’s players had taken them to heart, building an early one-run lead and playing top-notch baseball in the program’s first official on-campus home game.
Yet the final four innings of a 14-1 loss may have shown that the Lions still have some ground to gain if they hope to compete against state-playoff caliber opponents like the Cavaliers.
Trailing 1-0 following an opposite-field RBI single by Trinity’s Leighton Cannon, Stratford took advantage of defensive miscues that dominated a four-run fourth inning and another eight-run rally in the seventh to pull away.
It ruined both a two-hit effort from Cannon as well as a fine first outing from Lions starting pitcher Cole Elrod, who was tagged for four runs — all unearned — while striking out two in four innings.
Of the 14 runs allowed by Elrod and reliever Daniel Shoates, who struggled early with his control before righting himself, only three were earned in a season opener where Trinity’s errors approached double digits.
The miscues, which ranged from bobbled grounders and rushed throws to misplayed balls in the outfield, helped open the floodgates for Stratford, a state-playoff program in 2013 that finished Tuesday with 12 hits while leaving 10 runners on base.
Two botched infield grounders with one out haunted Trinity in the fourth and allowed the Cavaliers to put together both the tying and go-ahead runs on back-to-back hits from leadoff hitter Conner Corbett and teammate Austin Devaney. A third error in the inning pushed Stratford further ahead 4-1.
It was a 180-degree turn from how the Lions began the game while staying aggressive and playing heads-up baseball.
Trinity manufactured its lone run in the first on hits from Seth Davis and Cannon. After beating out an infield grounder with one out, Davis stole second, moved to third on Shoates’ sacrifice bunt and scored when Cannon took an outside pitch the opposite way to left.
The Lions finished with five hits, but struggled to come up with one in the clutch in between the first and last innings. Trinity loaded the bases in the third with two outs on two hit batsman and a walk, but couldn’t connect.
Trinity threatened again in the fifth with runners on second and third with two outs before Cannon ended the inning with a flyout to straightaway center. The game ended with the Lions leaving the bases loaded in the seventh.
On the mound, Elrod struck out two and walked just one while victimized for six Trinity errors over the first four innings. The right-hander allowed four hits, just one of which went for extra bases. Of his 62 pitches, 43 went for strikes.
Devaney led Stratford by going 3-for-6 while four teammates added two hits. Jack Peterson led the Cavaliers with 3 RBIs while junior Conner Collins earned the win after allowing one run on two hits through five innings.
Cavaliers 14, Lions 1
Stratford 000 402 8 — 14 12 1
Trinity 100 000 0 — 1 5 10
WP — Conner Collins
LP — Cole Elrod