John Milledge Academy baseball head coach Justin Mills said the expected starter pulled out due to arm pain. Sophomore pitcher Ben Bracewell accomplished quite a feat as a season opening replacement.
He struck out the first Brentwood batter and never looked back as the Trojans locked up the defending GISA AA state champion Brentwood Eagles 5-0 Monday. The sophomore threw a complete game with no walks, four strikeouts and no earned runs.
Now that Bracewell displayed his fortitude under competitive pressure, Mills feels better about his rotation including seniors Brantley Attaway, David Youngblood and junior Chad Charping heading into a road stretch.
“He (Bracewell) threw seven unbelievable innings. He had the mentality we need to have out here as ball players,” Mills said. “Honestly, I was expecting three or four good innings and he gave me seven, which helps us a lot with three games this week.”
First inning plate appearances were short and sweet for both teams Monday.
A Brentwood error at first allowed senior Heath Roberts to advance to second base as Simmons scored the game’s first run.
JMA escaped an offensive threat in the top of the third inning after an Eagle double placed a man on third. Bracewell retired one and handled a line drive at the mound for the second out.
Attaway nabbed a pop up, keeping the Trojans unscathed. Brentwood stranded three runners.
In the bottom of the inning, junior Kendall Morgan doubled for JMA’s first hit. Morgan was called out at the plate later in the action leaving the score 1-0.
JMA continued picking away at a talented Brentwood ball club the final innings. Bracewell remained steady, and his teammates generated runs.
Staying error free is a tremendous recipe for success this season.
“We didn’t make an error, and we didn’t walk a batter. We do that I like our chances,” Mills said. “We did a good job at the plate battling two or three different pitchers. It was a great opening day for us.”
Roberts was 1-for-3 with an RBI, while senior Billy Whitlock added a hit also. Junior Trent Thiel equaled the 1-for-3 mark with an RBI and a run scored.
Attaway ripped a triple for an RBI, as well as scoring a run and stealing one base.
Mills admitted losing six well-known starters from last year’s team wasn’t easy, but having depth and competition at every position maintains a sense of urgency.
Road games at Gatewood, Stratford and Mount de Sales will test the new faces.
“We have a ton of questions. Last year, we had huge names that we knew would contribute for us. We have guys that we don’t know what they are made of right now,” the JMA coach said. “Hopefully, the road trip will tell us a lot. I like the competition we have within the guys. I like the depth. Losing what we did and coming out here performing like we did today is a huge step.”