Dutch Fork opened the Class 4A, District 8 tournament with a strong performance at home, defeating Carolina Forest 6-3.
After surrendering a small lead, Dutch Fork posted three runs on four hits in the bottom of the fifth inning and coasted to the win. The Silver Foxes got 11 hits in the game, led by senior Austin Ruger’s perfect performance at the plate. Ruger was 3-for-3 and drove in three runs.
“Every time I came to the plate, I had runners in scoring position. I didn’t want to do too much, but single, single, single. That was good,” Ruger said.
Coach Casey Waites, in his first season at the helm for the Silver Foxes, was pleased with his team’s timely hitting.
“We struggled hitting with timely two-out hits this season, but we changed up the way we did things in batting practice, and it seemed like things came together tonight. Every hit we had was with two outs,” he said.
Carolina Forest got a run across in the first when Cameron Cauble was hit by a pitch, advanced to third on consecutive passed balls and scored on Robert Jolly’s groundout.
But the Silver Foxes took control in the bottom of the inning, with Blake Smith singling, and Adam Elsey reaching first on a throwing error. Pitcher T.J. Shook went to the plate with two outs and runners in scoring position and sent the first pitch into left field for an RBI single.
Led by strong pitching from Shook (3-0), the Silver Foxes held the Panthers scoreless for three innings while they extended their lead. Ruger sent home a run with a single over third base to put the Silver Foxes up 3-1 in the bottom of the third.
“Shook was the guy we needed to go with, he has all four pitches, and he had all of them working tonight,” Waites said of the sophomore, who struck out three in seven innings.
“He was dominating, and pitching the whole game, you cannot ask more from your pitcher. He did it for us,” Ruger said.
Still, two errors and three Carolina Forest hits helped the Panthers pull even in the fifth. Dutch Fork responded, with two singles setting up Ruger’s RBI single into the gap to reestablish Dutch Fork’s lead. Then, facing two outs and with two runners in scoring position, freshman Ward Hacklin put up a double to deep right field that put the Silver Foxes in the drivers seat, 6-3.
The Silver Foxes improve to 18-6, and are 8-1 at home this season.
“What we’re trying to do is bring back the tradition of this program, from when a legendary coach named Al Berry was here. This is a school that is successful in so many sports, so the talent is definitely here, and we’re going to do as much as we can with it,” Waites said.