TAMPA – After a poor outing in a loss to Steinbrenner on Tuesday, King was looking to get back into a rhythm with the postseason looming.
However, with only one week of games before the district tournament it is often a time where coaches will choose to give starting pitchers a breather — sometimes even if it means a loss.
Then there are the times when a new player can take a moment to shine — like King sophomore Ben Bates did Thursday night, tossing five innings of one-hit, shutout baseball leading the way for a 4-0 Lions win.
“He goes out there and competes,” King coach Jim Macaluso said. “That was a big lift for us.”
Bates who entered the game with only four innings pitched this season, said he was a little nervous heading into the game against Gaither, which was 9-1 over the 10 previous games.
“I was definitely a little nervous,” Bates said. “But once I came out here I could feel it and I’m glad I had the chance against a good team. Today I knew I’d have to bring it.”
Bates finished with three strikeouts, improving to 2-0 on the season.
“We needed a big win against a team that has been on a roll,” Macaluso said. “He stepped up, did a great job and it was a good experience for him.”
He quickly found the mound a comfortable place sandwiching the only hit he’d allow to a Gaither (14-6) hitter in between a pair of first-inning strikeouts.
From there the Lions defense supported him and King (18-3) took control in the second inning as Jose Lopez doubled to start the inning followed by a walk and a two-run Kobe Barnum single. King added two more in the sixth on a Bubby Terp single to right-center and reliever Drew Grubb closed the door with a two-inning save, his fifth of the season.
“Drew has come out of that pen like an animal for us,” Macaluso said. “In high school, to have a guy like that is huge.”