They won’t always be this easy, but the new era for Orange baseball got off to a great start.
In Jason Knapp’s first game as the Orange baseball coach, the Panthers defeated Ragsdale 18-1 at Ronnie Scott Stadium. The Panthers scored three runs in the opening inning, which started with 2nd baseman Dante DeFranco lining a double to left field on the very first pitch of the season.
“That’s a good win,” Knapp said. “Those guys have eight seniors, so they’re seasoned. That was a nice start to the season.”
It was Orange’s first game since the retirement of Dean Dease as head coach. Last June, Dease retired after 31 years and 504 wins.
Senior Luke Riley, the only Orange pitcher who has ever started a game at the varsity level, earned the first win of his career by throwing three innings. He struck out four and yielded three hits and one run.
“I thought Luke was great on the mound,” Knapp said. “He got into a little bit of trouble a few times, but he worked right out of it with some help from his defense. I think that’s what is going to make him even better is the number of innings he starts logging and he realizes that if he gets the ball over the plate, we’ve got the guys behind him that can make plays and make life easy for him.”
After DeFranco’s double, junior shortstop Joey Berini walked. Centerfielder Cooper Porter laced a double down the left field line to score DeFranco and move Berini to third. With Colin Guentensberger at the plate, Berini scored off a wild pitch. Cooper Hench knocked in Porter with a sacrifice fly to right field to give Orange a 3-0 lead.
Even Ragsdale’s only run turned into an Orange success. After leading hitter Ryan Lipke reached on an error and Trey Jackson walked, Jon Spillman sent a liner to centerfield. Porter picked the ball up at the wall and hit Berini at the edge of the outfield grass. Berini threw a strike to catcher Tucker Joseph, who tagged out Jackson at the plate.
It was Orange domination for the rest of the brisk afternoon. The Panthers scored six runs in the third inning to break the game open. Designated hitter Will Walker hit a bases loaded single to score Porter, who led off with a walk. Joseph walked to score a run, increasing Orange’s lead to 5-1 and sending Jackson, the Ragsdale starter, out of the game.
Joey Berini had a two-run double. DeFranco later singled in a run. Orange added nine more runs in the fourth. 1st baseman Dayne Wakins led off the inning with a double. He finished the day 2-for-2 with three runs scored. The game was originally scheduled at Orange, but was moved on Monday to Jamestown because Panther Field is too soggy from the recent rain.