DUMFRIES — With just one starter returning and no seniors in the lineup, Potomac coach Mike Covington knows what his strategy will be with his young Panthers team: run aggressively and put pressure on the other team.
Gar-Field coach Jay Burkhart, in much the same position as Covington, wants to use those same tactics. But in Monday’s 4-0 loss to the Panthers, Burkhart never got that chance.
Potomac strung together individual runs in four different innings and got a solid performance out of starting pitcher Mike Giarizzi, who made his first varsity start in the game.
The Panthers’ offense wasn’t exactly clicking, but Potomac took advantage of enough opportunities to earn a win. Like in the second inning, when Potomac parlayed a walk and an Indian error into its first run.
After Gar-Field starter John Malene issued a walk to Harry Williams to start the inning, Colin Tyrell reached on a Gar-Field error. A sacrifice bunt moved both Williams and Tyrell into scoring position, and Williams scored on a fielder’s choice off the bat of Mike McLain.
A similar story, an inning later: With one out, Potomac’s Matt Rainbolt reached on an error and scored when Brandon Maupin doubled. And in the sixth, Tyrell doubled to score Brandon Clark, who led off the inning with a walk.
There were some times the strategies worked. In the fourth, aggressive baserunning helped give the Panthers a 3-0 lead.
“We’ve got to manufacture, manufacture [runs] and run, run, run,” said Covington. “We ran ourselves out of an inning or two, but that happens sometimes when you’re overaggressive.”
Gar-Field couldn’t be too aggressive, since the Indians were behind by the time the third inning started. But they had their chances. In the third, with runners on first and second, Gar-Field’s Ernesto Febus got caught in a rundown between second and third while teammate Brian Petko advanced to second.
Petko reached third on a wild pitch just before Malene walked. But with runners on the corners, Gar-Field could do no damage as Travis Van Hook and Eric Crowder popped out to end the half-inning.
“We had some baserunners in scoring position, but we can’t seem to put pressure on them and get over the hump,” said Burkhart.
That was as much trouble as Giarizzi found himself in all afternoon. And though he wasn’t dominant, he was effective, striking out seven and surrendering three hits. He got through three innings without allowing a baserunner, and Petko’s time at third was as far as any Indian runner got.
Potomac’s defense helped out, too. Besides some diving plays in the infield, Tyrell made a good running catch in the outfield. Gar-Field’s Tony Sloan hit a deep fly to the gap in right center, but Tyrell caught up to it and put it away with no problem.
Covington is hoping his team has found its stride. The Panthers got thumped in their opening scrimmage, so Covington and his staff went back to the drawing board. They switched some players around to different positions and made some other less obvious changes.
The difference was immediate.
“The next five days, I saw us getting it at practice,” said Covington. “In a long time of coaching, I don’t think I’ve had a team that’s better prepared to play. I told them before the game, ‘Are you going to be young and not let yourself play? Or are you going to do what you practiced for the last week and a half?’ I thought we played pretty relaxed.”