The Venice baseball team opened its Monday night game against Sarasota as it typically does — scratching across an early run and pitching lights-out baseball at Sarasota High School.
However, the Indians’ first-inning run wound up being the only time they could score, and a three-run sixth inning rally by the Sailors was all it took to win the game, 3-1, and hand Venice (4-1, 1-0) its first loss of the season.
“We just didn’t have a good approach at the plate tonight,” Venice coach Craig Faulkner said. “We took too many strike threes without swinging.
“That’s our big talk tonight. We’ve gotta have a better approach and battle a lot more than we’re battling at the plate right now. We haven’t hit the ball good this year yet, but tonight we didn’t battle at the plate. When you’re taking strike three, you’re just not mentally ready. So that’s something we have to work on.”
The Indians didn’t even need a hit to score their first — and only — run of the game. Michael Robertson led off the game with a walk, advanced to second on a foul pop out, stole third and eventually scored on a sacrifice fly from Mac Guscette.
Though Venice first baseman Aidan Corn led off the second with a sharp single to right field, the Indians would record just one more hit — a bunt single by Zac Calhoon in the third — for the rest of the game.
However, Venice’s struggles at the plate didn’t matter for much of the game as starting pitcher Danny Rodriguez breezed through the Sailors lineup for 4 2/3 innings.
The senior right-hander began with a 12-pitch inning in which he struck out the side, and he didn’t slow down, finishing with no runs, one hit and one walk allowed while striking out eight.
Rodriguez was visibly upset with being taken out of the game in the fifth inning, but Faulkner said it’s in the team’s best interest to save him for more important games.
“This early in the season, we need him to pitch again coming up and this is not a district game,” Faulkner said. “And we need some other guys to pitch. We can’t just have two pitchers. We’ve gotta have some guys get experience. Jacob has to get experience. He didn’t pitch on varsity last year, and he needs that experience because we’ll need him down the road.”
Sidearm pitcher Jacob Faulkner came in to relief Rodriguez, retiring the final batter of the fifth.
But things wouldn’t go as smoothly in the sixth.
Faulkner got the first batter to ground out to first base, and looked to be on his way to a quick inning when the second batter hit a ground ball to second base.
Ryan Marti cleanly fielded the ball, but his throw to first got away from him as it went into the dirt and allowed the batter to reach second. From there, three of the next four batters had RBI hits as Sarasota built its first lead of the game.
With just three outs left to mount a comeback, Venice put two runners on with a walk and a hit batter, but couldn’t do much else against the Sarasota pitching.
“We’ve gotta be tougher outs than we were tonight,” Faulkner said. “Our pitchers are giving us a chance to win even giving up three runs, they’re still giving us a chance. Our defense hurt us a little bit there, but we’ve gotta score some more runs.”