PLYMOUTH — It was opening day at Bill Nixon Field, and the growing pains were evident.
But the Pilgrims overcame a shaky start with 13 hits and a nine-run sixth inning to get the win over visiting Class A, No. 18 South Central, 14-10 Tuesday.
“We didn’t take advantage early in the game; we left some opportunities, but obviously that sixth inning was huge for us,” said Plymouth head baseball coach Tony Plothow. “Everybody came through with some big hits.”
“I was happy with our hitting tonight,” he added. “Obviously that was the key for us. A little disappointed in situational-type things on defense, but we’re going to chalk that up to the first game.”
Ike Kastner started off the big sixth inning with a line shot on a hanging curveball from South Central reliever Garrett Walter to drive in Connor Flynn, and Houston Hodges kept things rolling with an RBI double to left that scored Chase Peters after Flynn and he led off the frame with consecutive singles.
Ben Rosebaum hit Kyle Cartwright to load the bases in his second pitch in relief for Walter, then walked Phil Iwinski after an 0-2 start to score the tying run in Kastner, and four-year power hitter Damon Howe punished him with a go-ahead grand slam shot over the center field fence on his first offering to give Plymouth the lead for good at 12-8.
Jacob Segraves drew a walk, pitcher Ricky Luva reached on a sacrifice bunt that turned into an error by the shaken Rosebaum, and Flynn came back around to score both on a long fly out to center to give the Pilgrims their final runs of the game.
Howe, used as the designated hitter with an arm injury, finished the night 2 for 3 with five RBI, including his grand slam and a two-run base knock into left in the third inning.
“He’s been our power for going on four years now. He’s been our mainstay in the lineup,” Plothow said. “Obviously, we’ve got to have some kids step up and protect him so teams pitch to him, and tonight we were fortunate with a situation where the bases were loaded and they had to come in to him, and he was ready, that’s for sure.”
Plymouth nine hole hitter Hodges — who led off for the Pilgrims in his rookie season in 2010 — went 3 for 4 with a pair of two-strike singles and an RBI double. He finished with three runs, two RBI and two stolen bases.
“He’s going to be big for us this year,” said Plothow. “I think he started almost every rally we had. He got things going for us and then drove in a couple. So those are the types of things we’re going to need from him wherever we put him in the lineup. We tried him tonight at nine with a different type of look and so far, so good.”
The Pilgrims cranked out 13 hits to overcome four errors by an inexperienced infield — including three in the first four frames — for seven unearned South Central runs.
“We have a lot of question marks. You’re looking at our lineup right now, with Kyle Cartwright out there in left and Damon Howe nursing an arm injury so we just DH’d him tonight, a brand-new starting infield tonight, and I don’t know if it showed or not,” said Plothow jokingly.
Plymouth got off to a slow start both at the plate and in the field as South Central ran up a 6-0 lead in the first three frames.
Blake Geskey — who finished 3 for 4 with a double and two RBI — doubled in Walter after his two-out single to start the scoring in the top of the first. Cody Young reached on an error at first, allowing Geskey to score, and Rosebaum scored Young on a hard grounder past second as the Satellites jumped off to a 3-0 advantage.
South Central struck again in the second when nine-hole hitter Devin Wiltse tripled to the right field corner and scored on a grounder to short by Satellites lead-off man Austin Hanna. The visitors widened the gap to 6-0 with two more runs in the third as Geskey, Young and Brett Walters led off the frame with three consecutive base hits to load the bases, and Tyler Wherrit scored Geskey on an error at short, and Young came home on a fielder’s choice to second by Wiltsie.
Plymouth started its rally in the bottom of the third.
Hodges singled into left followed by an RBI shot to left from Cartwright, and Iwinski doubled to deep center to put runners on second and third, setting the table for a two-RBI single into left by Howe scored both Cartwright and Iwinski and cut the Satellites lead in half, 6-3.
Both teams went three up, three down in the fifth before the Satellites scored again on a double from Snyder and an RBI single from Geskey that brought the score to 7-3 in the sixth, but Plymouth took the lead for good in the pivotal bottom half of the inning.
South Central battled with two unearned runs in the seventh but got no closer than 14-10 as Plymouth closer Iwinski drew a ground-out to third with runners on first and second.
South Central falls to 3-1-1 with its first loss of the season, while Plymouth opens at 1-0. The Pilgrims will be back in action tonight as they host South Bend St. Joseph’s at 4:45 p.m.
“It’s good that we’re out playing,” Plothow said. “We haven’t had many days where we’ve been out playing in game situations so we’ve got to learn on the run here.”
• PLYMOUTH 14,
SOUTH CENTRAL 10
S. Central: 312 101 2 — 10 12 12
Plymouth: 003 209 X — 14 13 4
Ricky Luva (W, 1-0) and Phil Iwinski (7); Blake Geskey, Garrett Walter (3, L) and Ben Rosebaum.
2B: Geskey (SC), Dan Snyder (SC), Iwinski ℗, Houston Hodges ℗
3B: Devin Wiltse (SC)
HR: Damon Howe (P)
Records: Plymouth 1-0, South Central 3-1-1.