Sickles scores big early, defeat Crest 8-1

Sickles senior Cameron Guise struck out five, working four innings and drove in a pair with a double as the Gryphons defeated the Chargers (813Preps file photo, M. Camunas).

By Brandon WrightFeatures Writer

DOVER – Thursday marked the Strawberry Festival’s opening day, Plant City’s iconic annual throwdown. Crowds descend yearly to the tiny town for fried gut bombs of all manner, dizzying midway rides and of course, everything strawberry.

But a couple miles down the road, Sickles was in charge of an early-game merry-go-round last night.

The Gryphons crossed the plate eight times in the first two innings and cruised from there, defeating host Strawberry Crest 8-1 Thursday.

“We got off to a great start,” Sickles coach Eric Luksis said. “When you can put up a three-spot in the first and a five-spot in the second, it’s going to make for a pretty relaxing game for your defense and pitching staff.

“We came out swinging the bats today. It was a good thing for us to see.”

Sickles wasted little time, plating three runs in the first and following up with five more in the second. The Gryphons (3-1) collected eight hits during that stretch and were aided by a pair of Crest errors.

“I think (Sickles) came out with a pretty good approach, we weren’t establishing the fastball inside and were leaving everything out over the plate,” Crest coach Eric Beattie said. “They were hitting it hard the other way and did a lot of damage early on. Throw in a couple of defensive mistakes and there you have it.”

The first five Gryphons reached in the opening frame, with Cameron Guise lining a two-run double down the left field line to open the scoring and Michael Bynum (3-for-4) driving in the other with an RBI single. The hit parade continued in the second as Jacob Dial (2-for-4, two runs) lined a two-run double. Bynum then drove in another pair with a single and the third crossed on an error.

“Our hitting has started off a little slow this year,” Guise said. “It was good to see the bats get going lately and I think the hitters are seeing it well.”

Guise wasn’t at top form on the mound, but the Gryphons starter had more than enough in the tank. The senior righty, who fanned five, gave up a leadoff single in the first, but that was the only hit surrendered through four innings. His lone hiccup came in the fourth when he walked a pair and saw them advance on a wild pitch before Saxon Shaw’s RBI groundout scored Reuben Vasquez for Crest’s (3-1) only run.

“It was great to jump out to that lead because it just relaxes you out there,” Guise said. “You can just go out and attack hitters and not worry too much if they hit the ball hard. Just let the defense do the work.”

The victory extended Sickles’ win streak to three following a 1-0 season-opening loss to Durant. Since the Cougars’ loss, the Gryphons have scored 20 runs, including back-to-back eight-run efforts.

“Yeah, we got off to a slow start offensively (to the season),” Luksis said. “But we’ve been coming around and it was just a matter of time. The guys have been patient and tonight was a good sign in the right direction.”

Sickles’ Jordan Yost went 2-for-4 with a run on the night. Crest’s Chase Conti collected two-of-the-Chargers’-three hits and struck out five in three scoreless innings of relief.

#5 Sickles 8, #6 Strawberry Crest 1

Si   350|000|0 – |8|11|1
SC 000|100|0 – |1|3|2
W – Guise (1-1); L – Tweedy (0-1); S – Bly (1)
2B – Yost, Dial, Guise (Si); Conti (SC). Records – Si (3-1); SC (3-1).