Sumner High sluggers Gage Whitehead and Johnny Staley predicted big things would happen before the Spartans hosted Emerald Ridge on Saturday.
They had good reason to. For the first time this season, Sumner coach Casey Adcox slotted the two sluggers back-to-back at the No. 3 and 4 slots in the lineup — confident they could do some damage against the Jaguars that way.
"As soon as we saw our names together in the order with John hitting right behind me, I knew we were going to do some damage," Whitehead said. "I predicted we were going to go back-to-back in this game."
In the bottom of the fifth inning, with Sumner nursing a 4-0 lead, Whitehead turned on a fastball left over the plate to launch a leadoff home run to start the inning against Emerald Ridge starter Nate Packard.
"As soon as I got a pitch inside, I just turned on it," Whitehead said.
Two pitches later, Staley did the same as the senior crushed a pitch into the bleachers at Sunset Chev Stadium in right-center field.
"Having Gage ahead of me, I can see a lot of pitches," Staley said. "I saw he left his pitch out and put a good swing on it."
Whitehead’s day ended 2-for-2 at the plate with two RBI and two runs while Staley finished 2-for-4 with three RBI.
"We swung the bats well here against a quality starter," Adcox said. "You take these days when you can put up a score like this."
Sumner (6-1) didn’t need many runs as starter Joey Muscarnera (three strikeouts, two walks) pitched one-hit ball in four innings of work. The senior took another step in his start, Adcox believes, as Muscarnera was able to be effective despite the lack of having his best stuff.
“What I saw was a pitcher trusting his defense behind him," Adcox said. "He didn’t have his overpowering fastball today — he used location to keep them off-balance."
"I couldn’t put them away, so I just worked on locating all my pitches," Muscarnera said. "It makes it easier out there knowing your defense has your back."
Emerald Ridge (2-2) couldn’t shake off the rust after a 12-day layover between games. Coach Larry Marshall felt too many loose plays in the field combined with Packard’s start were the cause from the lack of action.
"You know, it’s hard to be sharp when you haven’t seen game action in 12 days," Marshall said. "Guys were not playing the ball right or out of position. We’ll be able to make a couple more of those plays with more games."
Packard (three K, two BB) picked up the loss after giving up six runs (five earned) before exiting with one out in the fifth.
"Nate wasn’t sharp at all today — he left too many pitches over the plate that they hammered," Marshall said. "He’ll have to forget about today’s game and move on. But he’s a competitor and will be better next time out."