Italy faces rival at home

Image: Gladiator Fan of the Year, Richard Cook throws the opening pitch.

Gladiator Fan of the Year, Richard Cook throws the opening pitch. (Anne Sutherland)

The Italy Gladiator baseball team hosted Maypearl on Wednesday, to make up a scheduled district game from Tuesday night’s rain out. Before Italy took their first swing, however, senior Gladiator, Brandon Souder, took one for the team and allowed winning ticket holders to cut off his massive mane of hair as part of the team’s fundraiser. Teammate Ross Stiles was the first to give Souder’s dynamic dew a whack followed by teammate Alex DeMoss who maneuvered the struggling trimmer until the last lock fell. Souder’s sacrifice added $125.00 to the team’s bank account.

Loyd Davidson Field is open for business and it’s time to head out to the ballfield for fun and festivities. Our Gladiators are in the beginning of district play and everyone is invited to cheer on our boys. The opening pitch was given by our beloved “Gladiator Fan of the Year,” Richard Cook. He threw like a champ to catcher Ross Stiles (#1) to open the game. “Of all the wonderful experiences I’ve had being a fan of Italy athletics, throwing out the first pitch was my proudest moment. The ball the players gave me is definitely going on my shelf,” commented Mr. Cook.

The Gladiators held Maypearl back for three innings. In the bottom of the fourth, Kyle Jackson (#7) and Jase Holden (#3) put the first two runs on the board due to Cole Hopkins (#9) single to right field. Then the top of the fifth inning came up and the bottom dropped out. Maypearl’s Walker Hoard (#4), Logan Hyles (#25), Brad Rhea (#18) and Lane Rhea (#9) brought in the next runs and Maypearl jumped up to the top. The score was Maypearl 4, Italy 2. In the bottom of the 5th, Chase Hamilton (#10) put another score on the board for Italy. Coach Josh Ward said, “Our boys played well. This is the second game in a row where we have let one bad inning hurt us greatly. We have got to eliminate the bad inning defensively and continue to be better at the plate, especially with runners on base.”

Even though the Panthers changed pitchers in the bottom of the sixth inning, Italy stayed with their starting pitcher, Justin “Buck” Buchanan. Ward explained,“Justin Buchanan threw an excellent game, well enough to win. He threw 128 pitches, 80 of which were strikes, with 11 strikeouts. I was constantly asking him how he felt and he kept telling me he felt good. He is always going to give us a chance to win when he is throwing the ball like he did last night. Maypearl is a good team, they are very talented and have a great coach. They took advantage of our mistakes in the fifth inning. Even with our bad inning we still had a chance to win the ball game in the end.”

Coach Ward is still excited about the rest of the season, “I am proud of our boys, we have a good team that is right on the edge of becoming a great team, and that has shown with the last couple games we have played. We are going to continue to work to put it all together and get better. This district is wide open, we are still in a good position to be where we want to be in the end, and that is in the playoffs.”

The next game is in Whitney on Friday, March 23 beginning with the JV at 4:30 p.m. The Varsity will play immediately afterwards.