TAMPA — Given the horrendous week the King baseball team has endured, the Lions desperately needed a win over district foe Freedom on Friday.
Granted it’s early in the season, but the Lions’ pair of one-run extra-inning Class 5A-9 losses caused coach Jim Macaluso serious concern. A 12-inning loss to Gaither last Friday was one thing, but Tuesday’s 10-inning setback at Leto, in which the Lions were one out from winning in nine, was another.
But Friday, against a Patriots team that has started strong, Devin Smith put the Lions’ season back on track, allowing just one earned run over six innings and striking out nine in a 9-3 win.
“They really, really needed this tonight,” Macaluso said. “If we lose tonight, we might lose five out of six. We’re not a great club, we’re a good club. …I really believe we might have snowballed. I’m glad we don’t have to worry about that.”
King (3-3) broke a 2-all tie in the third inning on run-scoring singles by Keon Barnum and Smith. The Lions then rallied for a five-run fourth inning highlighted by Cedric Walker’s two-run single that chased Freedom starter Dave Steward (3-1) from the game.
Smith (2-0) was 2-for-2 with three RBIs, while Barnum scored three runs, and centerfielder Javaris Reynolds scored two.
“We needed it badly, because those (extra-inning losses) are the killers,” Smith said. “You keep pushing and trying and then you come up empty. It feels good getting a win after how many innings we played.”
Kyle Schindler and Jay Carroll had two hits and an RBI each for the Patriots (4-2), who dropped their second straight game.
“(King’s) a good team,” Freedom coach A.J. Leppla said. “They’re a lot better than what their record was showing. We’ve been playing good baseball all season. This was probably the worst game we’ve played, and I’ll take it in the sixth game of the season.”