Pinewood Christian led Frederica Academy 6-0 heading into the bottom of the second inning Saturday. The early offense set the pace for what would turn into a combination of a track meet and slugfest in the Knights’ first home region game of the season.
Frederica managed to rally from the second inning onward. The Knights scored at least two runs from the second through sixth innings to outscore Pinewood 17-10 and improve to 3-0 in region play.
“To beat that team says a lot about our guys and their fight,” head coach Chris Chaffinch said. “The season may come down to them and us again. … You never know what’s going to happen.”
The Knights watched three balls leave the yard Saturday, two off the bat of Cameron Gardner and one from Brandt Mitchell, who launched a grand slam for Frederica Thursday night against Edmund Burke.
Chaffinch said Frederica’s offense was struggling heading into the game, particularly against Edmund Burke. Four of Frederica’s eight runs Thursday night came off one swing. On Saturday, the Knights’ lineup balanced contact-hitting approaches and power to tie their season high in runs scored. Frederica’s skipper went on to say, coming into the season, he knew the Knights would pack enough power to back his starting pitchers on a rough outing.
The Knights had to produce while trailing for the majority of the game. They got a huge boost with a three-run blast from Gardner in the fourth to give the Knights an 8-7 lead. The ball bounced off the yellow piping at the top of the fence, into a patch of woods in left field.
After the Knights finally took the lead in the fourth, Pinewood tied the game up again in the top of the fifth. In the bottom of the frame, Mitchell stepped in with the go-ahead run in scoring position in the and drove a high, inside fastball to deep left. He was 3-for-4 with six RBI in the game.
Mitchell has three homers in five regular season games. He also hit three bombs in preseason exhibitions, meaning he is well ahead of his 2016 pace when he tallied four home runs all season.
“I’ve gotten a lot stronger in the offseason, and gained about 15 pounds of muscle,” Mitchell said. “We’ve been down offensively the past few games. … I thought we hit the ball well today.
For good measure, Gardner launched his second shot on a breaking ball in the sixth inning. It flew out to left field at relatively the same angle as his first homer, but this one cleared the fence with plenty of room to spare.
“It takes discipline, focus and being able to weight back and see the ball deep,” Gardner said. “I’m coming out of a slump right now. I just though about staying back. Me and my dad have been working twice a day, preaching staying back.”
Nic Dixon picked up Frederica’s lefty starter Trey Thompson with one out in the second inning. Dixon closed out the remainder of the game, allowing two earned runs and striking out five. Dixon also had four hits and three RBI in the leadoff spot, including a double.
“My lefty was due for a bad start, he’s had some great starts so far,” Chaffinch said. “Nic came in and filled the void and did a great job. … We didn’t make some plays defensively that we have to get better at, here and there. But (Pinewood) swung the bats as well, so you have to give them credit.”
Frederica (6-1, 3-0) leads the season series against Pinewood, 1-0. Pinewood returns to St. Simons Island March 28 for Game 2. Frederica returns to action Monday at home against Glenwood Academy.