Gallery: Vanguard Defeats Crystal River 12-3

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Posted February 23, 2023 | Article by Allen Barney/Photos by Bruce Ackerman/Ocala Gazette

CT Antonucci drove in four runs and Luke Oxendine pitched four solid innings to lead the Vanguard Knights (2-0) to a 12-3 win over the Crystal River Pirates (0-2) on Feb. 23.

Both of the starting pitchers, Oxendine and Crystal Rivers’ Dwann McCray, started off with two scoreless innings as neither team got a baserunner past second base. Crystal River got the first base hit of the game via a single from Chandler Stalcup in the top of the second.

After Oxendine retired the side 1-2-3 in top of the third, the Vanguard offense came to life. Jake Wells led off the inning with a single to left field. Wells was followed by back-to-back base on balls from Adam Oxendine and Antonucci.

With the bases loaded and no outs, Luke Oxendine drove in the first run of the game with a sacrifice fly to center field. Jordan Volker followed with a two-run single down the right field line to give Vanguard a 3-0 lead.

Levi Kofmehl would come in to relieve McCray on the mound and ended the inning with back-to-back strikeouts.

Crystal River had runners on first and second with one out in the top of the fourth when Kofmehl lined a two-run triple down the right field line to cut Vanguard’s lead in half.

Oxendine came back to get a strikeout to end the inning and his outing. He finished with four innings pitched, two runs allowed and six strikeouts to pick up his first win of the season.

“We know with Luke; he always gives us a chance to win games. He’s going to throw strikes and he’s that soft-throwing lefty most teams want but he keeps hitters off balance with his curveball,” Vanguard head coach Scott Schaub said.

Vanguard used patience to load the bases with one out after Andrew Oxendine and Wells drew walks and Adam Oxendine was hit by a pitch. The stage was set for Vanguard’s team captain, Antonucci, and he came through with a 3-run triple down the right field line to extend the Knight’s lead to 7-2.

“I was just trying to get a base hit and some RBIs to help my team. We’re all about working the count, get the pitch count up and just battle,” Antonucci said.

The Knights added one more run in the inning when Antonucci scampered home on a passed ball by the catcher.

Bobby Blanco came on in relief for Vanguard and gave up a run-scoring single to Wyatt Pochis but kept the lead at 8-3.

Vanguard continued to pounce on Crystal River by adding four more runs in the bottom of the fifth on two passed balls, a sacrifice fly by Adam Oxendine and another run-scoring triple for Antonucci.

With the game well in hand, Blanco pitched a scoreless sixth inning and Obed Rivera Garcia pitched a scoreless seventh inning to close out the win for Vanguard.

For Crystal River, an 0-2 start to the season is not ideal but head coach James Metz has confidence his team can find a spark and start collecting wins.

“It’s growing pains, we had a rough one earlier this week and the kids are pressing a little bit. We’re not playing relaxed like we were in the pre-season. We just have to play relaxed and have fun and that’s what we’re going to focus on. Just having fun, enjoying the game and letting good things happen,” Metz said.


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