Junior lefthander Vance Tatum started for the Maroon and made a good case for such status come the real season. Tatum tossed three scoreless innings, allowing one base hit and one other baserunner via a fielding error. He walked none of the ten Grays faced.
For that matter walks were rare on this day-two of preseason competition. Through the five full innings played the eight pitchers working issued just four of those free passes and all came from bullpen Bulldogs.
Tatum was in control through his three turns. He did have an immediate baserunner when Gray leadoff batter OF Mike Smith reached on a grounder that skipped through 3B Gavin Collins for an error. Tatum came back with a couple of outs before Smith erased himself. He made a good move on second base but C Elih Marrero made a better throw for the tag and out.
After that Tatum rolled through the second and was two outs into his third when IF Jacob Barfield singled. A grounder stranded him.
Gray starter and lefthander Daniel Brown’s stint was shorter and not as easy. He did escape the first inning challenge, beginning with an other-way single from leadoff OF Jacob Robson. Robson also took second on a Brown pitch in the dirt; but because the dugout clocked his reaction and run time too slow he was ruled ‘out’ by the coaches. A couple of fly balls ended Brown’s first.
The second began with a fly-ball double by DH Cole Gordon. 2B Hunter Stovall’s bullet took the glove off diving SS Luke Alexander for a single and runners on corners, and Brown came inside too far on Marrero. With bases loaded SS Ryan Gridley’s pop-foul was caught in the shadows by 1B Nate Lowe.
Two down, LF Jake Mangum delivered the first runs of the afternoon. He bounced a single through the right side and plating Gordon and Stovall. Marrero was able to make third base ahead of the rightfielder’s throw, sliding under a tag, but he was left there on a strikeout of Robson.
Brown was through with two, allowing two runs on four hits with a strikeout. Lefty Trysten Barlow took over and was taken out by Collins. Just, not until OF Cody Brown had singled his way on. Collins crushed a no-doubter that cleared the rigs in leftfield for a 4-0 scoreboard.
A Gordon single finished Barlow, having been tagged for hits by all three batters faced. Righty Logan Elliot inherited a runner and soon had a pair on. Humphreys’ grounder was fielded fine by Alexander but he threw wide of second base leaving two on.
Elliot was able to gets outs on a pop-foul and strikeout, then SS Ryan Gridley also popped it in foul ground. But 3B Luke Reynolds had to reach-back on the ball and not only dropped it but deflected into fair ground. Gordon scored from second base for the 5-0 lead.
Maroon righthander Ryan Cyr took over from Tatum for the top-fourth and ran into issues. A one-out single by Jack Kruger and walk of Lowe had a pair on. A generous inner-corner strike call on full count against RF Brent Rooker had Cyr positioned to escape. But Reynolds foiled it with a bouncer through the right side, getting the Gray on the board as Kruger scored.
Gray lefthander Jared Padgett had to scrabble through the bottom-fourth. He gave a leadoff walk to Robson at the top of the order and made a wild pickoff throw to advance the runner. Cody Brown’s grounder was booted initially at second base before Holland recovered to get the out with Robson taking third base. Collins struck out, and Gordon was walked for Maroons on corners.
It was the right move as Stovall grounded out.
Stovall was batting a slot early because during that half-inning Humphreys was sent to the bullpen. A high school pitcher, the junior tossed in some fall scrimmages and is working for a relief role this spring. He did begin by walking Alexander, but came back with a strikeout of Blaylock. Stovall made a superb charging grab of a slow roller from Barfield to get the batter, and Humphreys struck out Smith. He was unofficially clocked at 92 and 93 when throwing from the windup to the first batter; after that he had to work from the stretch and was clocking 88 and 89. His curveball was 72-73.
Paul Young’s breaker was even faster. The oft-injured junior is healthy at last, looks heavier, and threw in the same fastball range as Humphreys. But he was curving pitches at a peak of 78, too. Marrero did greet him with an infield single, and with two outs Mangum surprised everyone by successfully bunting for a single.
Robson lined a drive off the shortstop’s glove for a RBI single and runners on corners. With C.Brown at the plate Robson was caught by Young breaking for second. Before the tag Mangum did manage to score a run for the 7-1 final.
Sunday’s scrimmage will wrap up this opening weekend of preseason, with a 1:30 start time. Lefthander Ethan Small and righthander Noah Hughes are starting.
Saturday’s batting orders with the starters’ positions--
GRAY: Mike Smith CF, Jack Kruger C, Nate Lowe 1B, Brent Rooker RF, Luke Reynolds 3B, John Holland 2B, Luke Alexander SS, Brant Blaylock LF, Jacob Barfield, Tanner Poole. LHP Daniel Brown
MAROON: Jacob Robson CF, Cody Brown RF, Gavin Collins 3B, Cole Gordon DH, Reid Humphreys 1B, Hunter Stovall 2B, Elih Marrero C, Ryan Gridley SS, Jake Mangum LF, Josh Lovelady. LHP Vance Tatum