Belleview blanks Vanguard for district baseball title

Rattlers beats Knights behind Skinner's arm and bat

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Posted May 4, 2023 | By Mark Pinson
Special to The Ocala Gazette
Photos By Bruce Ackerman/Ocala Gazette

OCALA – Belleview senior Aaron Skinner allowed two hits in 6 2/3 innings of superb pitching and homered in a four-run first inning to pace the Rattlers to a 15-0 win over Vanguard in Thursday night’s Class 5A-District 6 championship game.

The surprisingly one-sided win improved Belleview to 12-14 on the season, avenged a regular season defeat to Vanguard and earned the Rattlers a game next week in the first round of the state playoffs.

“It’s been an up and down season and it feels good to be district champions,” said Rattlers second-year coach Jared Moseley. “These guys came together the last couple of weeks and turned it on. We swung the bats tonight and Aaron did an outstanding job of locating his pitches and I know he would have liked to finish the game, but his pitch count was getting up there. We have to continue to pitch well and execute if we want to be successful in the playoffs.”

The disappointing loss dropped Vanguard, the No. 1 seed in the district tournament, to 16-9 overall. The Knights’ chances for qualifying for the postseason don’t look promising.

“The scoreboard pretty much tells it all,” said Vanguard coach Scott Schaub. “We played pretty good baseball all season long but when it gets this time of the season, everybody is 0-0 and records don’t matter anymore. We gave up that four-spot in the first inning and struggled to compete the rest of the game. It is what it is and it doesn’t look good for us making the playoffs, but I’m proud of this bunch and I’m proud of the seniors. I have a great group of kids. They do things the right way and I’m super proud of the way they handled themselves.”

Belleview, the No. 2 seed, came out swinging in the top of the first inning as Skinner belted a one-out solo home run over the left-field fence, Brian Reynolds smacked an RBI single and Mitchell Campbell laced a two-run double to give the Rattlers a 4-0 lead.

Skinner breezed through the Vanguard lineup, as the right-hander retired eight of the first nine batters.

Belleview added to its lead in the top of the fourth inning as Johansel McGovern lined an RBI single and Sam Plano plated a pair of runs with a single to left field to give the Rattlers a commanding 7-0 lead.

Skinner, fired up by the offensive support, struck out the side in the bottom of the frame and had a no-hitter through five innings of play.

Belleview, which banged out 12 hits, tacked on a pair of runs in the top of the sixth inning as Reynolds drilled a two-run double to right-center field to make it 9-0.

Vanguard finally broke up Skinner’s no-hit bid in the bottom of the frame on a clean single to center field by Jake Wells. Skinner retired the next two hitters to keep the Knights off the scoreboard.

Belleview wasn’t through scoring and erupted for six runs in the top of the seventh inning to take a 15-0 lead.

Vanguard’s Guillermo Martinez lined a one-out single off Skinner in the bottom of the inning, but was stranded on first base when Skinner, who had eight strikeouts, whiffed the next batter for the second out.

With Skinner’s pitch count mounting, Plano came on in relief and struck out the only batter he faced to seal the district championship for the Rattlers.

Belleview, as district champions, should host a Class 5A regional quarterfinal next week.

“We won’t know who or when we play until this weekend,” coach Moseley said. “We’re putting it all together at the right time of the year and we just need to stay focused and keep it going.”

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