Sussex Central rolls behind Mears to season-opening baseball win

GEORGETOWN — No matter the sport or the level, opening day is special.

The downside of the first game or match of the season is there’s typically a winner and loser.

Such was the case last week when the Sussex Central Golden Knights baseball team hosted Lake Forest in what turned out to be a closely contested game.

The Golden Knights’ offense was held to just three hits but managed to score single runs in the third, fifth and sixth innings to post a 3-0 victory over the Spartans.

“This was a great way to start the season,” said Sussex Central baseball head coach Todd Brock. “We got a very good effort from our starting pitcher and we were able to score a few runs.”

Central did secure just what it wanted from starting pitcher Justin Mears, who had a pitch count of about 65 through six innings while allowing just one hit, striking out nine and retiring the last 11 batters he faced.

Special to the Sussex County Post/Bill Mitchell Sussex Central senior Justin Mears tossed a gem as the Knights shutout Lake Forest 3-0.

Special to the Sussex County Post/Bill Mitchell
Sussex Central senior Justin Mears tossed a gem as the Knights shutout Lake Forest 3-0.

“Mears gave us a great outing today,” said Brock. “I think he had about a 2:1 strike to ball ratio, which is what you want. If we can continue to get this kind of effort out of him this year that will be a big plus for this team.”

Mears was able to shake off a rocky first inning in which the Spartans got their only hit off the left-handed starter and stranded two runners in scoring position.

“He got out of the jam and I told him to just stay on top of the zone,” said Brock. “After that first inning he was able to settle down and give us a great six innings.”

Mears was happy with his first start of the season.

“I felt good today,” he said. “I did have good control of the (strike) zone by getting ahead in the count and keeping them off balance.

“That first inning was a little shaky, but I settled down after that and was happy with the way I pitched.”

Brock went on to say that he was also happy with the relief effort from Sal Ingrassia, who earned a save by retiring three of the four Lake batters he faced.

Brock wasn’t overly concerned about a Golden Knights offense that was only able to produce three hits.

“It’s hard to tell about our offense at this point,” he said. “We have a lot of guys back from last year’s team, which didn’t hit all that well. So, we are hoping that, because they have another year of experience behind them, they will do much better at the plate this season.

“We do have a couple of new guys in the lineup that have impressed us in the preseason and we hope they continue to do so during the regular season.

“It’s too early to say if we will be a small-ball type of offensive team. However, if we can score a run an inning, that will be seven and seven runs a game is great.”

The Central coach added that there’s always room for improvement.

“We do need to work on our hitting because we did strikeout too much in this game,” he said. “Also we need to work on our timing at the plate as well as do better in situational hitting. However, because early in the season pitchers are usually ahead of the hitters, this type of offense is about what we expected.

“On a positive note, we feel pitching is our strongest point this year and we did get a great effort. Also, I feel we did a very good job defensively especially from catcher D.J. (Deron Doherty). He threw out a couple of runners and he did a great job with our pitchers.”

Leading the offense for the Golden Knights were Mears with two hits, including a double, and Brian Carroll and Trevor Collins, who had a RBI each.

Lake Forest also received a great pitching effort from starter Tyler Collins and reliever Curtis Reed. At the plate Logan Simpson’s two doubles accounted for both of the Spartans’ hits.

Bill Mitchell can be reached at sussexpost@newszap.com

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