Fort Dale drops season opener to Escambia

Published 12:00 am Saturday, March 3, 2007

The Josh Beverly era of Fort Dale baseball began Tuesday night, but not in the way he had hoped.

After Monday night's game against Sparta was postponed due to longtime football assistant coach Jimmy Gardner being inducted into the AISA Hall of Fame, the Eagles began the 2007 season Tuesday against the Escambia Academy Cougars under nearly perfect skies.

Offensively, however, the Eagles were not perfect.

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Fort Dale fell behind early to the Cougars as Escambia scored two runs in the top of the second.

After surrendering two runs in the second, senior Cory Johnson came in as a reliever and the Eagles did not allow another earned run.

Escambia added another run off of an error in the sixth, but the Eagles were determined not to lie down.

With two outs in the bottom of the seventh, Hunter Smith drew a walk and Jeffrey Stead moved him over with a double to right field.

Brantley McKeown loaded the bases with a walk to bring up Kendall Gibson, but Escambia's Dustin Hall tracked down Gibson's deep fly ball to center to end the game.

For the Eagles, Stead and Gibson had the only two hits, including Stead's seventh-inning double and Gibson's sixth-inning single that broke open Escambia pitcher Nick Flowers' no-hitter.

Kowetta Coon was the leading hitter for Escambia, going 2-for-3 with two singles and two runs scored.

Dustin Hall added a double for the Cougars and Jon Dean had a single in the win.

Stead picked up the loss for the Eagles while Johnson finished with 10 strikeouts.

Although Beverly was disappointed with his team's performance offensively, he did see some bright spots.

One of those bright spots was Johnson on the mound.

&#8220I feel he's going to be huge for us,” Beverly said.

After Blake Mullins injured his arm, forcing him off the mound this season, Beverly has been looking for a new No. 1 man in the rotation.

He may have just found him.

&#8220Although it's tough to find a positive in a loss, (Johnson) was one bright spot in the game,” Beverly said. &#8220He came in and did an outstanding job.”

&#8220Right now, he's our No. 1 guy on the hill,” he added.

With the lack of offensive firepower Tuesday, Beverly is now hoping his team has gotten the first-game jitters out of their systems and are ready to play baseball.

&#8220This week, we have faced some live pitching and tried to get as many at bats as we can,” Beverly said. &#8220We have to learn to relax at the plate.”

The Eagles will travel to Monroe today to take on Monroe and Jackson in a double-header.

Game times have been moved up, with Fort Dale taking on Monroe at 10 a.m., and then Fort Dale taking on Jackson at 12:30 p.m.

Senior Ty Newton is expected to start against Monroe and Brantley McKeown is expected to start in game two.