By RICH KELLY
For the Star Beacon
SAYBROOK TOWNSHIP —
One of the great lessons in sports competitions is to play with the maximum effort in utilizing your own skills and talents. It’s a lot easier said than done, but the Lakeside Dragons got a full dose of it Thursday afternoon as they tangled with a youthful and inexperienced group of Panthers from Youngstown East in a Division I sectional semifinal ballgame. The Dragons came out on top, 12-0.
“I think we hit the ball well early and then thought we had it in the bag right away,” Lakeside coach Andy Kiphart said. “We were way out in front on our front foot hitting after the first inning. I just told the kids it’s going to be a huge adjustment to tomorrow’s game in Austintown.
“I think they were 16-2 at the seeding meeting, they’re seeded first for good reason, and the pitching will be quite different from this game.”
The Dragons will play Austintown Fitch today in a sectional championship game. The season has come to an end for the Panthers (1-14).
The Dragons (6-15) scored seven unearned runs in the first. Aided by two errors and a trio of singles, Lakeside (6-15) opened a 4-0 lead by the time the ninth hitter in the order came up.
Caleb Garcia sent a drive deep to right-center and raced around the bags for an inside-the-park homer.
“Caleb is just a wonderful kid,” Kiphart said. “He works hard, is a great student, and a pleasure to have on the team. Sometimes he tries a little too hard, and he isn’t experienced enough yet to do some of the things he tries to get done.”
The major benefactor of that first inning outburst was Victor Tuttle. He allowed a first-inning single to Brandon Jackson and then proceeded to strike out 11 of the next 12 East hitters.
Tuttle walked no one, a point Kiphart was glad to see.
“Victor has really good stuff,” he said. “For him, it’s all about his command. When he is painting the corners of the strike zone, he can be deadly for hitters.”
Tuttle also hit leadoff and contributed a pair of hits to the Dragons’ attack.
Lakeside plated four runs in the fourth to end the contest early.
Those four runs came about due to a pair of walks, a hit batsman, a sharp single by Jacob Perry, and an error at second base on a sharply hit ground ball by Tuttle.
Alex DeCamillo and Jared Parsons each scored twice, and Garcia tallied twice while driving in three.
“We’ve only got two kids on our team who played Little League,” East coach Eric Pelligrini said. “This is a great bunch of kids to work with. Their attitude is fantastic, but they plain and simply don’t have any experience with the game. We don’t have a regular home field and it takes playing to gain that experience.
“It’s been the story of our season, too. One bad inning kills us all the time. We just don’t have the skills to come back all the time after we get down. I really appreciate the effort we get, though.”
Kelly is a freelance writer from Jefferson.