The Destin Marlins battled to the end but came up short 14-13 to the visiting Ruckel Rams in middle-school baseball action this week.
"They grew up a lot in that game," said Destin Coach Matt Cawthon.
"They found an identity and played hard from the first pitch to the last. That’s all you can ask of them."
Ruckel started with a bang, putting nine runs on the board in the top of the first on seven hits, two of which were home run knocks. Kane Lafortune blasted a three-run homer and Riley Six hit a solo shot out centerfield.
Destin came right back with a big showing themselves with lead-off batter Austin McDowell slapping the first pitch over the center field fence.
That was a first for the seventh-grader in a middle-school baseball game, but not the last. Before the inning was over, McDowell belted another one over the right field fence on a full count for a grand slam.
"That one was an accident," McDowell said about the second one.
"I was just trying to hit a line drive," he said.
By the end of the inning, Destin had put eight runs on the board. Owen Davis hit a single for two RBIs.
In the second inning, Destin evened up the score. Hunter Barber singled up the middle and eventually scored on a passed ball at the plate for a 9-9 game.
In the top of the fourth, Ruckel edged ahead with two runs on three hits.
Destin answered with two in the bottom half on a solo hit from McDowell to keep it even.
In the top of the fifth, Ruckel connected for a pair of doubles to put three runs on the board. Lafortune and Brady Martin each doubled up the middle.
Destin scored two in the bottom half. Trey Wainwright singled up the middle and scored on a home run shot by Barber into center field. Destin trailed 14-13.
In the last two innings, each team got runners on base but couldn’t get one across the plate.
"We had some things not go our way throughout the game, but we tell them all the time, ’Just control what you can control’," Cawthon said.
"I’m very proud of them," he said.
Up next for the Marlins is a 4:30 p.m. game on March 26 at Meigs.