Freeport sneaks past Lakers in season-opener

Jack Davenport on the mound led Freeport past visiting Lake Region on Thursday afternoon, April 14, throwing an incredible 16 Ks. Even when the Lakers threatened in the seventh, loading the bases with just one out, Davenport never lost his cool: He downed his last two adversaries on six straight pitches, securing a 2-0 W for the Falcons and kicking their spring campaign off right.

Falcons head coach Bill Ridge readily pinned the win on Davenport: “That was a great performance by Jack, unbelievable…It was good, because we weren’t fielding the ball particularly well.”

Lake Region head coach Randy Heath focused on the upsides in the loss: “It’s always tight with Freeport: That’s a positive. The guys battled back, so that’s a positive. We got a lot of positives today. We did a lot of work with our pitching staff. Charlie McDonough looked really good; Nate Smith looked really good.”  

Neither team, in fact, particularly lit up the plate on Thursday. Lake Region went one-two-three in the top of the first, and though Davenport logged a single then stole second during Freeport’s ups, he soon got caught trying for third. With Lakers ace McDonough already having struck out Max Doughty and Colby Wagner, the Falcons returned to the field.

McDonough keeps an unusual weapon in his arsenal: “He’s our knuckleball pitcher that pitched the game we had for 10 innings last year with these guys,” Heath said.

Ridge recalled the teams’ knock-down, drag-out contest in 2015.

“McDonough, he threw against us last year, and he did the same thing. He’s a good pitcher. He throws that knuckleball, and throws it effectively. I thought we did a pretty good job, but he kept us off-balance today. He has good zip on his fastball, then he throws a nice, slow knuckleball that moves all over the place. He’s tough to hit against,” he said.

The scoreless first inning turned into a lengthy stalemate – a scoreless first three and a half innings. Davenport and McDonough continued to send batters packing, and the few balls that reached the playing area mostly ended as routine flies or ground-outs. Damon Knight belted a nice double for Lake Region in the top of the fourth, but his teammates couldn’t usher him those last 180 feet.

Finally, in the bottom of the fourth, Freeport broke the silence: Doughty reached base and Wagner eventually singled him home again for 1-0. Caleb Rice and Jack Sawicki both grounded out 6-3 before the Falcons could build any more momentum, however.

In the fifth, Freeport picked up where they’d left off. Bennett Hight popped a ball into center – one that should’ve been an easy catch for the Lakers’ outfielders. None of them called it, or called it clearly enough, though, and perhaps amidst some confusion, they all backed away from it. It dropped, and Hight reached first.

“Yesterday was our first day out in the field,” said Heath of his boys’ scattered errors. “Once we get outside, start doing the real deal, get the dimensions of the field and flow of the game, we’ll be all right. We made a lot of mistakes today. We were lucky to keep it at two (runs).”

Joey Burke stepped in to pinch-run for Hight, and advanced to second when Caiden Shea walked. Hight stole third during Ben Humphrey’s at-bat, then tagged up and raced home when Humphrey flew out to center. 2-0.

The Falcons looked poised to score again in the bottom of the sixth: Davenport opened with a ground-rule double over the centerfield fence, and Wagner skied a ball to left that somehow managed to fall. Both boys slid 90 feet forward – Davenport to third and Wagner to second – on a balk by Smith. But Smith, despite mounting pressure, maintained his composure, drawing Rice into a 5-3 groundout before striking out Sawicki and Burke to escape danger.

With his Lakers down, and with only one ups left in which to come back, Heath could be heard instructing his boys to have fun. That advice must’ve been good advice, because his team promptly loaded the bases. Jordan Williams knocked a ground-rule double into left, Smith clipped a trickler to short that Rice bobbled and Nick Wandishin took first on a catcher’s interference call.

“You’ve got to keep it light; it’s a game,” said Heath. “If you get all tensed up and you’re worried about the score, you’re never going to accomplish anything. If you keep it light, just get up there and hit the ball like you do when you’re a little kid, everything will work out.”

Lake Region had arrayed the pieces for a comeback: They’d pried a huge hit from Davenport and a pair of flubs from his teammates, and had two outs left to play with. 

“You could say Jack made one mistake all day: He left a fastball right down the middle of the plate to their four-hitter,” said Ridge. “And then, we didn’t make a play. Catcher’s interference and some weird stuff happened.”

“Put the ball in, contact,” Heath said. “I don’t care where it’s going; it’s going to be something they have to deal with, and we can capitalize on their mistakes, rather than making our own.”

Davenport, though, hadn’t hashed 14 Ks already to not win cleanly, and he swiftly stymied the Lakers’ surge, striking out Brandon Palmer and Ryan Hodgdon to end the action. 2-0 the final.

Heath applauded Davenport’s effort. “He’s nowhere near where he’s going to be at the end of the season. And he threw more than I thought he would today; I didn’t think he’d go the whole game. He’s like every other pitcher in the league right now; they’re monitoring him. He had some good stuff: His curveball was working, he was pitching outside to our power-hitters.”

“We know that he’s one of the best,” Ridge said of Davenport. “Not just on the team, in the conference – he’s one of the best in the state. And he just went out and proved it. It sounds conceited to say, but that was not surprising.”

Freeport’s next bout is at Yarmouth on April 25; Lake Region hosts Greely that same day.


Jack Davenport tallied an absurd 16 strikeouts against the visiting Lakers on Thursday.

Nate Smith took to the mound mid-game for the Lakers.

Freeporter Joey Burke dives back to first, manned by Laker Ryan Hodgdon.

Freeporter Joey Burke lines up the Falcons’ second run in their 2-0 victory over visiting Lake Region on Thursday.

Freeport fielder Caleb Rice waits on the action vs. the Lakers on Thursday.

Third baseman Damon Knight watches the action at home plate in the Lakers’ road game at Freeport on Thursday.

Laker Jordan Williams dashes for third in his team’s road loss to Freeport on Thursday.