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Patriots open season with win over Jefferson

March 28, 2004|by TIM KOELBLE

koelble@herald-mail.com

FREDERICK, Md. - Thomas Johnson has several seniors on its baseball team who were members of the Patriots' state championship club two years ago.

Those veterans are expected to be an integral part of any success TJ has this season, and Lowell Coats was one who made sure the Patriots got off to a fast start in their season opener Saturday afternoon.

Coats only looked at two pitches in his first two at-bats and delivered a double, triple and five RBI as TJ waltzed to a 9-1 lead after two frames and held on for a 9-6 triumph over previously unbeaten Jefferson. The lefty later singled, accounting for three of TJ's seven hits.

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Coats, who is coming back from off-season surgery on his right shoulder, nearly re-aggravated the injury when he went head-first into second on a stolen-base attempt in the fourth inning, with it popping out of position. But only a few minutes later it was popped back into place as he welcomed a bag of ice.

"I had the surgery after summer baseball last year," Coats said. "That surgery won't stop me from being aggressive. I got two good pitches to hit the first two times up. We've got a nucleus of seniors and I don't think we have any weak spots."

Alan Bowman set the table for TJ, leading off the season with a double to the wall in left-center field. After Carl Wolf walked, Garrett Hanselman ripped a run-scoring single to center.

Coats followed with a first-pitch blast to center, bringing in Wolf and Hanselman, and made it 4-0 when he came around to score on a Jefferson throwing error - the first of five errors by the Cougars, all coming in the first two innings.

Jefferson tallied a single run in the second when Adam Kessel blasted a triple and scored on a groundout by Kylee Griffith.

With one out in TJ's half of the second, Bowman drew a walk from Griffith, the Cougars' starter, to ignite another rally. Jake Darr followed with a double down the left-field line, scoring Bowman, and Wolf reached on an error by Kessel. Hanselman then walked to load the bases for Coats, who delivered a first-pitch triple deep to right that nicked off the top of Gage Levac's glove on a running effort. Coats scored when the relay throw was misplayed in the infield for a 9-1 TJ lead.

"It was nice to see them come out like this and do well," said TJ coach Jim Foit. "We hung in with good defense (no errors). This is a veteran team and they were ready to get started. I want them to be aggressive because I think we've got some smart hitters."

The Cougars (5-1) pecked away with three runs in the third off TJ starter Travis Lee, getting an RBI single from Corie Gustines and a long double to left from Kessel.

Jefferson closed the gap to 9-6 with two runs in the fifth off reliever Luke Markey as Will Grantham tripled and scored on a single by Levac, who scored when Kessel delivered another double to the fence.

Foit brought in Ed Hutchins, who closed the door on Jefferson over the final two innings to earn the save.

"Kylee was getting the ball in the zone the first two innings and then he settled down," said Jefferson coach John Lowery. "As well as we did hit the ball today, we were just as sloppy on defense. TJ is the best team we've played so far this year. We didn't have the right approach to the game in the first two innings."

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