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GC win streak snapped by Northwest

Tyler Waldrep

PANAMA CITY — Gulf Coast’s 10-game winning streak came to an end Thursday night as Northwest Florida State defeated Gulf Coast 5-2 in the Commodores’ Panhandle Conference opener.

“That’s what you expect from a team in our conference,” Gulf Coast coach Mike Kandler said. “You got to play really, really well to win and we played OK.”

Northwest Florida State (23-6, 4-1 Panhandle Conference) finished the game with eight hits while the Commodores (18-7, 0-1) struggled at the plate out of the gate to end with only three total hits.

“The real issue here was that their starter (Matt Boswell) was really, really good and he kept us off balance and it was a pitchers’ duel and we made a couple of mistakes defensively,” Kandler said.

Lead-off hitter Stevie Moffatt recorded the team’s first hit at the top of the fourth inning. He and Evan Johnson were the only Commodores to score in the loss. Brett Wisely was credited with the team’s only RBI.

At the plate, Wisely finished with one walk in four at-bats, but he more than made up for it on the mound where he struck out seven of 27 batters faced and allowed only two unearned runs in six innings of work.

“Personally I feel like Wisely’s the best player in our league from a pitching standpoint and hitting standpoint,” Northwest Florida State coach Doug Martin said. “I mean his numbers are off the charts. For us to score any runs off of him is pretty good.”

Blaine Smith finished with a game-high two RBI for the Raiders. His teammate Kyle Fitzgerald scored as a runner twice and finished with one RBI himself.

With Wisely likely done for the series, the Raiders’ hitters should feel more confident on Saturday, though their coach wasn’t quite ready to go there.

“The guys they’ve got throwing Saturday are really good too,” Martin said. “If you look at their pitching statistics they’re one of the best pitching staffs in the state, so it won’t be any easier.”

Brad Lord struck out three of eight batters in relief of Wisely and allowed no unearned runs. Kandler turned to Weston Bizzle in the final inning and the closer promptly struck out two batters before allowing his defense to take care of the third.

Before Thursday’s loss, Gulf Coast was averaging 12.8 runs a game in its last five contests, so it’s possible the team’s bats could find a rhythym again without Boswell on the mound.

Last week against conference foe Pensacola State, the Raiders managed only one run in the first game, then the Raider offense exploded to finish with 28 runs almost evenly distributed across the final three games in the series.

The series will resume with a doubleheader on Saturday at Northwest Florida State beginning at 1 p.m.

“Flush it and get on to the next one,” Kandler said of the loss in conference play. “I mean we play 24 of them, you can’t get too caught up in any one particular game. So we won’t think about this game very long afterwards, we’ll get on to Saturday.”

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