By REID TUCKER
Paxton cruised to a 3-0 victory against visiting Malone, giving the Bobcats a 2-0 district record in the young baseball season.
The Bobcats tacked on two runs early in the game when Mason McCormick and pitcher Zach Forehand crossed the plate via RBIs from Ryan Gilbert and Kahler Lang, who also got singles of their own. Paxton added a final run in the bottom of the sixth inning when Lang, who got another single, was brought home thanks to a base-hit from Jeremy Jerkins.
The only real question in the Paxton victory was the performance of Forehand, who had been suffering from pain in his throwing arm since the last game against Pensacola Christian, when he threw just 45 pitches before retiring from the mound. Nevertheless, Forehand threw about 20 pitches more than that against Malone, enough to take Paxton through nearly all of five innings of play. He recorded the win with three strikeouts, four walks and a solitary hit before being replaced by eighth-grader Grant Newborn, who had six Ks and two walks to get the save.
Paxton coach Jeff Bradley had high praise for his pitching duo and how well they meshed with the infield players.
“It was good to see Zach come back and throw well for us tonight after hurting pretty bad in our previous game,” said Paxton coach Jeff Bradley. “Grant is a pretty special player on the mound. With him pitching that frees up Zach to be in the infield and when that happens we have a pretty good defensive team.”
Malone had a few chances to score, but failed to capitalize despite having two batters be hit by errant Paxton pitches in the first inning, two defensive errors on the Bobcats in the second inning and loaded bases at one point in the top of the fifth when Forehand walked three batters – only a double play saved the Bobcats from facing a 2-1 score then.
However, the game was all Paxton for the duration, especially on the defensive front after switching in Newborn, who quickly showed his prowess on the mound by pulling the Bobcats out of a potentially disastrous situation in the tail-end of the fifth inning with a timely strikeout as Malone Vick Breeden came up to bat. Newborn had two more Ks in the top of the sixth and four more in the top of the next inning to shut out the visiting Tigers.
Malone pitcher Austin Lockhart was credited with the loss. He pitched for five full innings and three Ks, two walks and he gave up four hits. Relief pitcher Brett Henry had a strikeout and a walk apiece and gave up two more hits.
Paxton was led in hitting by Lang, who was 2-for-3 with two singles, and McCormick, whose at-bat performance was identical to Lang’s.
“We did a lot of things right tonight,” Bradley said. “This win puts us in the thick of our district. We’re right back in the mix and we like our chances.”