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Commodores fall again

Updated Mar 9, 2017 at 10:59 PM

By Pat McCann / The News Herald

 

PANAMA CITY — Northwest Florida State’s 4-2 victory over Gulf Coast on Thursday at Bill Frazier Field won’t cause too many ripples in the Panhandle Conference, but it might have left a lasting impression in one sense.

 

Raiders’ sophomore right-hander Brayson Smith possibly exposed a weakness in the Commodores, at least at this stage of the season, while covering up one on his team.

 

Smith tossed a seven-hitter with eight strikeouts without walking a batter in a complete-game performance that pretty much told the story.

 

Northwest Florida, 18-7, 2-0, staked him to a 4-0 lead against losing pitcher Ken Adair and Smith was in charge in every inning except the seventh when Gulf Coast scored both of its runs.

 

The Commodores, 19-5, 0-2, lost their third straight game when they couldn’t produce the key at-bats to get into the Raiders’ bullpen.

 

Because of recent injuries, that could be where NWFS is vulnerable, Gulf Coast coach Mike Kandler said.

 

“We haven’t been able to get past their starter,” Kandler said, remindful that Raiders starter Eric Orze pitched into the ninth inning on Tuesday. “We just completely get dominated by a good pitcher.

 

“That’s been our M.O. unfortunately. We pitched well and made a couple of mistakes, but you’re not going to win games with two” runs.

 

The Raiders had eight hits, including six hits and four runs off Commodores’ starter Ken Adair, 2-1. Two of the runs were unearned, but NWFS again had four extra-base hits and Gabe Austin homered for the second straight game.

 

Gulf Coast managed seven singles. Smith needed 114 pitches, yet still hit 91 mph on the radar gun in the bottom of the ninth. Three of his strikeouts came in the last two innings.

 

By contrast, he struck out one batter in each of the first three innings and each time it was on a called third strike.

“We’re unaggressive,” Kandler said. “It’s really not hitting. It’s observing.”

 

After Alec Aleywine and Jordan Tylski opened Gulf Coast’s second with consecutive singles, Smith escaped a one-out, runners on second and third situation.

 

The Raiders gave him an early lead in the third. After first baseman Aleywine, second baseman Jackson Webb and Adair combined on a nifty 3-4-1 putout to open the inning, Daino Deas and Landon Crowder singled and Hunter Oliver cracked an RBI double.

 

Austin had a solo homer with two outs in the fourth, and after Jeff Omohundro’s throwing error the Raiders tacked on two more runs when Deas walked and Crowder had a two-run double.

 

Smith allowed only two baserunners — Aleywine hit by a pitch and Josh Nowak’s single — while cruising in the third through sixth innings.

 

The Commodores challenged for the first time when Aleywine reached on first baseman Ross Goforth’s error to lead off the seventh. Tylski followed with his second of three hits and Kandler would have held Aleywine at third on Eli Taylor’s single but left fielder Grayson Moyes bobbled the ball and it was 4-1.

 

J.T. Duncan bounced to third baseman Crowder who alertly erased Tylski from third base in a rundown, but Taylor and Duncan reached second and third so Gulf Coast had the same circumstances, now with one out.

 

Nowak followed with his second single of the game to score Taylor, but Rashard Ranie lined to first baseman Goforth and Nowak was caught off the bag for a double play to end the threat.

 

Greg Loukinen pitched five shutout innings in relief of Adair for Gulf Coast. He allowed only two hits while striking out four and walking one.

 

Both hits came in the seventh when Oliver drilled his second double. Cole Halfacre followed with a single, but center fielder Jacquez Koonce cut down Oliver at the plate with a strong throw.

 

The teams conclude their four-game series Saturday in Niceville with a doubleheader starting at 1 p.m. Aleywine and Alec Wisely are scheduled to pitch for Gulf Coast.

 

Also in the Panhandle Conference on Thursday, Chipola won at Tallahassee 9-1 to tie NWFS for first at 2-0. Gulf Coast and TCC both are 0-2 and Pensacola doesn’t begin conference play until next week.

 

Northwest Florida;001 300 000 — 4 8 2

Gulf Coast;000 000 200 — 2 7 2

 

Smith (W, 3-1) and Oliver; Adair (L, 2-1), Loukinen 5 and Nowak.

LOB: Northwest Florida 7, Gulf Coast 5. E: Omohundro 2, Goforth, Moyes. DP: Northwest Florida 4-3, 3u. S: Taylor. 2B: Deas, Oliver 2, Crowder. HR: Austin. WP: Adair 2. PB: Nowak. HBP: by Smith (Aleywine). RBI: Oliver, Austin, Crowder 2, Nowak.

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