It’s been a long time coming, but the Destin Marlins have beaten the Ruckel Rams 14-4 in middle school baseball earning the top seed going in to the county tournament, which begins Monday.
Destin, 11-1, will host Davidson Middle at 4:30 p.m. in the semifinals.
“It’s been 10 years since Destin has beat Ruckel,” said Destin Coach Matthew Cawthon. “So it’s a great day to be a Marlin and I’m proud of these guys.”
From the beginning, it was apparent it was a big game on Wednesday as it drew a lot of fans as well as area high school baseball coaches. Coach Brian McDaniel of Fort Walton Beach, a former Destin baseball coach, as well as Coach Nick Borthwick of South Walton High were on hand to watch the action. Both coaches were looking at potential players for next year.
And although the Destin Marlins got off to a slow start, they didn’t disappoint.
“We came out and got in some situations and left some runners on and got behind to begin with,” Cawthon said. “The atmosphere wasn’t what we wanted it to be. We got everybody together in the dugout. We had a clear idea of the team we were and how far we’d come and knew what we wanted to do and got it done.”
Ruckel came out in the first inning and put three runs on the board on three hits. Chase Waters doubled for an RBI. Addison Moore hit a sacrifice fly to score Waters. Alec Morvay singled to left and scored on a double from Logan Davis.
In the bottom half, Destin got runners on but failed to score.
In the second, with Aiden Garrity on the mound for the Marlins, Destin shut the Rams down. The first batter grounded out to the pitcher, and then shortstop Dylan Matekovich fielded a grounder for a putout at first. Waters singled, but then Moore popped up to the first baseman Luke Edelman.
Destin again got two runners on base, but couldn’t get past second base for a no score inning.
In the top of the third, Garrity sat them down quickly on a pair of strikeouts and a pop fly to Matekovich at shortstop.
In the bottom of the third, Destin finally got things rolling. With one out, Preston Murphy ripped a single up the middle and Edelman walked. Caleb Reeder singled to right center to load the bases. Up next, eighth grader Logan Cann blasted a triple down the right field line to bring in three runs. Blake Orr reached on an error and Cann scored to give the Marlins a 4-3 advantage.
In the top of the fourth, the Marlin defense didn’t give an inch shutting Ruckel down on a pop fly to Cann in right field, a ground out to first baseman Edelman and then a grounder to Matekovich at shortstop.
Destin picked up one more run in the bottom of the fourth. Murphy walked and went to second on a throwing error. Edelman walked and then he and Murphy each advanced on the bases with Murphy slipping home on a wild pitch for a 5-3 game.
In the top of the fifth, Ruckel scored one last run. Morvay singled up the middle and later scored on a fielder’s choice from Davis.
In the bottom half, Destin put the game away mixing in a couple of hits with eight walks. Ruckel went through three pitchers in the fifth pushing five runs in on walks. However, Destin did manage to get a couple of hits. Reeder singled in a run as did Matekovich. The last two runs scored on a fielder choice from Garrity for a 10-run ruling on the game.
The turning point in the game was the triple from Cann in the third inning.
“He’s a team player that works hard. It couldn’t happen to anybody better,” Cawthon said.
As for the pitching staff for the Marlins, Edelman started out in the first and then Garrity came in late in the first and took the Marlins home.
“Luke got a little shook up but he was still big for us and picked the team up. I was real proud of Luke,” Cawthon said.
“Then Aiden came in and just did his thing and believed in himself and here we are,” he said with a big smile on his face.