Hoffman delivers in late call up for victory over the Eagles

Senior Cade Hoffman scored his team’s first run, kicking off a five-run frame from the Patriots, as Freedom got a mercy-rule win against visiting Brandon. 

By Lily Belcher, Staff Writer

TAMPA – Heading into Tuesday’s game, Patriots’ coach Dane Moore knew his team would need to be productive with runners in scoring position to pull off what would turn out to be a 17-7 mercy-rule victory against visiting Brandon. What he didn’t know was that he would have to pull scheduled starting pitcher sophomore Dane Mobley minutes before the first pitch.

Mobley was a late scratch, but it wasn’t a surprise since the sophomore has been dealing with tenderness in his arm throughout the season. And, Moore has gotten into the habit of making last minute changes to the lineup.

“Truthfully, every time I’ve written my starting lineup before it’s game time, I’ve had to scratch it,” he said.

Despite the last-minute call, senior Cade Hoffman made his first start of the season and set his team up for victory on both sides of the plate.

Hoffman had a shaky start, giving up a run after loading the bases early in the top of the first, but was able to limit early damage by Brandon (1-9) to just one. He quickly made up for it with a lead off base hit in the bottom half of the inning to kick start the Patriots’ five-run first.

A single by junior Bryce Nanns allowed Hoffman to cross the plate and tie the game early, but the Patriots weren’t done.

A fly ball caught in foul territory allowed Brayden Nanns to tag up and score, followed by a bases clearing, two-RBI single by Gavin Tarr, and a Connor Cress RBI triple brought the Patriots to a 5-1 lead by the end of the first.

Freedom senior Cade Hoffman

Hoffman admitted that the struggle for Freedom (2-8) this season has never been putting runners on. Instead, it’s getting them the final 90 feet around the basepath.

“We’re working the count, getting runners on base and driving them in. So, it’s been great,” he said.

Freedom added three more in the second, including two runs off a quick triple by Bryce Nanns.

The Eagles answered with three runs in the top of the third but Freedom put up an equal number in the bottom of the inning, bringing the score to 11-4 by the end of the third.

During practice this week, the Patriots had been working on “approach-type hitting” for situations with runners on. Moore said he has emphasized taking aggressive swings and taking control of the at bats.

“I think a lot of the time, our guys are too timid at the plate,” he said before the game.

The Eagles stayed in it through the fourth, putting up a pair of runs and holding the Patriots to just one in the bottom half. Brandon added one more run in the top of the fifth to bring the score to 12-7, but it wasn’t enough to hold off a mercy-rule victory for the Patriots. Charles Rodriguez was 3-for-3, with three runs and an RBI, and Aidan Junttila drove in three for the Eagles.

Freedom put up two runs off a handful of hits before senior Paul Rodiguez stepped up to the plate in the bottom of the inning with two outs.

Moore was relying on the first-year infielder to swing the bat and Rodriguez delivered, sending his first hit of the season into the outfield for a two-RBI double. Just a few pitches later, Hoffman’s base hit allowed Rodriguez to score the winning run for Freedom.

“It’s a good feeling for him I’m sure, absolutely,” Moore said.

Moore commended the Patriots’ “aggressive approach at the plate,” which created and executed scoring opportunities.

Nanns said Tuesday’s win, or any win this season, is “a big confidence booster.”

The Patriots will carry this confidence into Thursday’s home game against Strawberry Crest. Brandon will travel to Lennard, Thursday night as well.

Freedom 17, Brandon 7

B 103|21x|x – |7|7|6
F 533|15x|x – |17|13|3
W – Hoffman; L – Ruiz
2B – P. Rodriguez (F); 3B – Bry. Nanns, Cress (F). Records – B (1-9); F (2-8).