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Braves coast past Conner

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By Paul Gable

Getting the ball as a starting pitcher can make you nervous.

Josh Cummins wasn't nervous as he took the mound for Ground County on April 18.

Instead, Cummins, a senior, and his teammates were loose, putting up seven runs in the first two innings on their way to a 9-3 pasting of the Cougars at the Florence Freedom's Champion Window Field. For Cummins and the majority of his teammates, the game at the minor league park was the first of its kind during their high school careers.

"Everybody loved it. It gave us energy, and it is not every day you get to play in a park like this," said Cummins, who added that he did not take a different approach to the game despite the new setting.

Head coach Van Duncan said he was impressed with how his team responded to the moment.

"We told them to have fun and enjoy it, but that we were there to win a game. They were not overwhelmed and they stepped up their play," Duncan said.

The Braves' relaxed feelings were evident early as sophomore Dillon Pelfrey led off Grant County's bottom half of the first inning reaching safely on an error, only to score when senior Scott Kelly hit into a fielder's choice. The scoring continued moments later as freshman Aaron Goe brought home two runs, giving the Braves a 3-0 lead after one inning.

Grant County blew the game wide open in the second inning, sending 10 batters to the plate, scoring seven runs.

"Getting those runs early helped take some of the pressure off. This win shows people how good we are," Cummins said.

With one out, Dillon Adams belted a double to the centerfield fence. That blast was followed by back-to-back walks to load the bases. Cummins brought in a run on a flyout to leftfield and Jonathan Cain drew a walk to load the bases again. That is when Kelly cleared the bases, hitting a ground-rule double that scored two runs. Cain was able to steal home on a wild pitch for the final run of the inning for Grant County, who stranded three runners on base.

"I am happy we played well and won on this nice field. This win is a good confidence booster, and we did better because the field made us play better. It is the only chance we get to play here, and we took advantage of it," Kelly said.

In the sixth inning, Grant County padded its lead with three more runs due in part to a pair of singles by Cummins and Goe, the youngest starter the Braves suited up.