Big first inning carries Harding over Kennedy

Special to Tribune Chronicle / Dianna Oatridge Warren G. Harding’s Dontai Young, left, gets a high five from Brandon Arnold after he scored during the Raiders’11-2 win over John F. Kennedy Friday at Eastwood Field.

NILES — About a half-hour after the first pitch was thrown, Warren G. Harding’s Brandon Arnold grounded out to bring a merciful ending to a six-run top of the first inning for the Raiders.

Harding added three more runs in the third and tacked on two in the 7th for an 11-2 victory over John F. Kennedy, Friday night at Eastwood Field.

Nick Fitzgerald got the Raiders started with a solid RBI to right field scoring Dontai Young from second base. Young was aboard after being hit by a pitch leading off the game. He advanced to second, using his blistering speed to steal the base.

Fitzgerald scored on a bases-loaded walk making it 2-0. Matt Williams and Cameron Knupp also got in on the action during a frustrating start for the Eagles.

JFK coach T.A. Elder told his coaches, ” We just can’t throw the ball over the plate.”

Special to Tribune Chronicle / Dianna Oatridge Warren G. Harding’s Cameron Knupp slides into home on a wild pitch in the first inning of their game against John F. Kennedy at Eastwood Field on Friday night.

For the Raiders, it obviously was an excellent start. After going 4-18 last year, Harding improves to 2-3 on the young season.

“We were young last year,” Harding coach Andrew Burnett said. “We’re still young this year with six sophomores and two juniors. We expect to be much improved as the year goes on.”

Harding pitcher Cavin Stouffer made it difficult for the Eagles. The sophomore pitcher stands at just 5-feet-5, yet delivers a powerful fastball. He mixes speeds and threw off Eagle hitters all night, pitching a complete game.

Stouffer threw just as hard in the seventh as he did in the first inning, beginning the final frame with another strikeout and ending the game with grounders to third and short.

It took JFK three pitchers to get through the first inning which included five errors.

Isaac Hadley knocked in Marcus Aulizia with a sacrifice fly in the bottom of the first for Kennedy to make it 6-1. After Harding made it 9-1 in the third, JFK scored one more in the bottom of the third.

Kennedy was hampered because one of its best hitters, junior Alex Hernandez, was suffering from a hamstring injury. He battled through the pain and played, but was visibly affected by the injury.

Elder is in his first year as head coach for JFK (3-6). He is replacing Don Lee who amassed over 300 victories in his 27-year career as a head coach. He coached for 34 years overall.

” My grandaughter is a junior on JFK’s softball team,” Lee said. ” I’m going to sit back and enjoy watching her play. I like watching the baseball team play as well. Coach Elder is going to do a fine job with this team.”