Sophomore pitcher Matt Studdard scattered six hits over seven innings, and senior centerfielder Ryan Sutton went 2-for-2, drove in a pair of runs while scoring two, as the Heritage Patriots beat the Salem Seminoles 6-1 in a Region 8-AAAAA game at Danny Blue Field.
With the win, the Patriots improved to 15-6 on the season, 9-3 in region play. Salem fell to 7-13, 2-8 in the region.
Heritage coach Jason Borcherding said Salem presented a stiff test, but Studdard was able to handle the relentless Seminoles.
"It always starts with the guy on the bump (pitcher's mound)," Borcherding said. "That's a dangerous team. He (Studdard) scattered six hits. He was able to weave in and out of some traffic. Guys made some plays for him that ended some innings, so it was just a gre¬¬at pitching performance by him."
After Studdard retired the Seminoles in order in the first inning, Heritage manufactured a run in its half of the inning as Sutton led off with a single. He stole second, and took third as Seminoles' shortstop Jordan Johnson couldn't corral catcher Rocky Mauriello's throw to second. Tyler Holcombe's sacrifice bunt scored Sutton, putting the Patriots up 1-0 after one inning.
Salem had a golden opportunity to score in the top of the second inning, but as has been the case so many times this season, it couldn't come up with the key hit.
Seminoles lead-off hitter Tiwann Head walked to start the inning and first baseman Jason Howell sacrificed Head to second. Johnson grounded to Studdard, and Head broke for third base, but Studdard threw to third baseman Justin Roberson, catching Head in a rundown. Head came out on top of the rundown, as Heritage eventually sailed the ball into the outfield, allowing Head and Johnson to advance to third and second base safely.
Studdard steadied the Patriots' defense, forcing right fielder Akil Baddoo to pop out to first and designated hitter Ryan Read flew out to right field, ending the inning with two men stranded.
"It's the same old story of the whole season. We just struggle trying to get hits with runners in scoring position," Salem coach Chad Kitchens said. "That's been the case in every loss this season.
The Patriots broke the game open in the bottom of the second as Roberson led off with a single and left fielder Freddy Bryant laid down a sac-bunt, advancing Roberson to second.
Heritage's George Moll grounded to second, but Salem's Ndiayemon Harrison threw late to first and Moll was safe. Catcher Anthony Williams drew a walk, loading the bases for Sutton, who promptly stroked his second consecutive single and drove in Roberson and Moll.
Williams and Sutton pulled of a double steal, and a Holcombe sacrifice fly scored Williams, extending Heritage's lead to 4-0.
Neither team scored during the next three innings, with both teams throwing out runners at home, ending their halves of the fourth inning.
Salem's half of the fifth inning was not without controversy, however.
With two outs, Harrison walked, putting a runner on for the Seminoles. Center fielder Jordan Scott followed with a single, putting runners on first and second. Head smacked a 2-2 pitch to deep short, but Zackery dove for the ball, stopped it and threw from his seat, forcing Scott at second for the third out.
The play led to Kitchens leaving the Seminoles' dugout to dispute the call after the second baseman's foot appeared to come off the bag, but the ruling stood.
Salem scored its only run of the game on two-out home run from Baddoo in the top of the sixth inning.
Heritage added two more runs in the bottom of the sixth as Bryant worked Salem relief pitcher Kevin Barham for a lead-off walk, stole second and went to third on a passed ball by Mauriello. Jalen Jackson, who had replaced Moll at first base, hit a sacrifice fly that scored Bryant.
After Williams flied out to center, Sutton walked, Holcombe doubled and designated hitter Domenic Bazzani singled, driving in Sutton to cap the scoring at 6-1 in favor of the Patriots.
Heritage hosts Appalachee Monday before traveing to Appalachee Wednesday. Both games are scheduled to start at 5:55 p.m.
Salem is back on the diamond Monday and Wednesday in a home-and-home series with Gainesville. First pitch for both games is scheduled for 5:55 p.m.