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GC rallies in home opener

Posted Feb 2, 2017 at 9:36 PM

By Pat McCannThe News Herald

 

PANAMA CITY - For a game played on the second day of February, Gulf Coast's 2017 home opener had the feel of a matchup competed under a hot sun during late spring.

 

Not that the conditions Thursday at Bill Frazier Field were anything but pleasant as the Commodores rallied to a 3-1 victory over St. John's River in the Visit Panama City Beach Kevin Miller Tournament.

 

The outcome left Gulf Coast 4-0 on the young season as the Vikings slipped to 5-2.

 

This wasn't however, the kind of game to beat up the effort from either dugout. Outstanding pitching limited two hard-hitting teams, St. John's River possibly the most potent lineup in the state last season, to a combined seven hits.

 

Gulf Coast was throttled by Vikings sophomore starter Pearson McMahan who pitched into the sixth. The Commodores couldn't overcome a 1-0 deficit until Jacquez Koonce drilled a two-run double in the seventh inning that plated unearned runs on the lone error of the evening.

 

Alex Wisely added a solo home run in the eighth and Greg Loukinen finished off five hitless innings of relief started by Trever Kilcrease for the save.

 

Kilcrease went three innings in relief of starter Dylan Cyphert who left after four. Loukinen recorded the final six outs, the last of them on his second and third strikeouts.

 

"I don't know how you can get a better game than this," Gulf Coast coach Mike Kandler put the early effort by both teams into perspective. The Commodores had seen McMahan last season.

 

"He's one of the best arms in the state," Kandler said. "We knew that going in. The key was that Cyphert basically matched him."

 

Well, not quite. The Vikings scored in the third inning on what could be termed a "February run." Cyphert walked two around Cole Perry's second single of the game and Nick Owens came across on a wild pitch.

 

The sophomore left-hander allowed only three hits in four innings, including a double by Justin Smith with two outs in the first followed by Perry's single to center field.

 

Center fielder Koonce never drew a bead on Smith's hard line drive that looked as though it could have been caught but went for a double. Koonce immediately atoned when he gathered up Perry's single and threw a strike to catcher Josh Nowak to nail Smith at the plate.

 

After scoring its run, St. John's River never threatened over the final six innings. Kilcrease walked two, one of them erased on a 4-6-3 double play, and Gulf Coast's rally in the seventh made him the winner.

 

McMahan allowed only infield singles by Carnegy Calzado and Wisely while pitching into the sixth inning. The Commodores reached reliever Jagger McCoy in the seventh when third baseman Michael Koenig bobbled a bouncer by Jackson Webb to extend the inning.

 

Eli Taylor pinch hit with two outs and Webb on first and walked to put runners on first and second. Koonce drilled a ball into the field-field corner that scored both runners and opened a 2-1 lead. Wisely's homer to straightaway left provided insurance leading off the Gulf Coast eighth.

 

"That was a game played at a high level with clean fielding and outstanding pitching," Kandler said. "Kilcrease has been really good; he's such a tough kid.

 

"All three guys were outstanding and the defense backed it up. What more do you want."

 

Gulf Coast hosts Gordon at 4 p.m. today. The Kevin Miller Tournament is one of the rare events where admission is charged at Bill Frazier Field. Kandler said a one-day pass is $10, $20 is good for all games played through Sunday and $40 covers a family pass.

 

St. John's River 001 000 000 - 1 3 1

Gulf Coast 000 000 21x - 3 4 0

McMahan, Jagger (L) 6, Litchfield 8 and Reemsnyder; Cyphert, Kilcrease (W) 5, Loukinen 8 and Nowak, Sibeto 8.

LOB: SJR 6, GC 6. E: Koenig. 2B: Smith, Koonce. HR: Wisely. DP: SJR 4-6-3, GC 4-6-3. SB: Koonce 2. CS: Duncan, by Reemsnyder. WP: Cyphert 2. RBI: Koonce 2. Wisely.

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