Destin Marlins knock off Ruckel for County Championship

Tina Harbuck

Not only did the Destin Marlins beat the Ruckel Rams but they run-ruled them, 15-5, in the sixth inning of the Okaloosa County Middle School Baseball County Championship game Tuesday afternoon in Destin.

This was the second time the Marlins beat the Rams in less than a week, both times by 10 runs.

“I’ve pitched against Ruckel like every single time we’ve played them,” said eighth grader Aiden Garrity. “So it’s good to beat them two times this year when it counted and we blew them out both times. So it’s really exciting and I’m happy for us."

Garrity went the distance on the mound for the Marlins on Tuesday facing 28 batters in six innings. He struck out four, walked two and gave up eight hits.

Not only did Garrity get it done on the mound, but at the plate as well. Garrity went four-for-four with four singles for four RBIs.

“I hit every ball in the same spot,” Garrity said, who eventually knocked in the final run.

All the eighth graders, as well as the rest of the team, parents and family were elated about the win.

“I’ve been on this team for four years with McDaniel and Coach Griffin and we’ve always been up there in the playoffs,” said eighth grader Luke Edelman.

“But this year we finally came out with a W. That coach right there,” Edelman said as he pointed at Destin head coach Matthew Cawthon, “he really helped us. Although he and all these players hitting dingers and slapping them over … and base hits and everything. I’m just happy we won after all these years.”

Eighth grade catcher Preston Murphy was happy for the victory as well.

“It’s a big win,” Murphy said.

Last year, Destin lost to Ruckel in the title game, 18-4.

“The win feels good to finally pull it out. Garrity pitched well and we moved runners around when we needed to,” Murphy said.

Ruckel started the game strong with Jack Messmore cranking the second pitch over the centerfield fence. Chase Waters walked and scored on a double from Logan Davis. Destin put a stop to the scoring with a strike out from Garrity and a ground out to third baseman Caleb Reeder.

In the bottom, Destin put the bat on the ball for three hits resulting in four runs. Garrity started with a single to right and the next batter popped up for an out. Murphy slapped a single to right center to score Garrity. Up next, Edelman blasted a fast ball over the centerfield fence for his seventh homer of the season and two RBIs. Reeder reached on an error and later scored on an error for a 4-2 advantage.

In the top of the second, Destin shut Ruckel down in short order after giving up a hit. Ryan Teel singled and then Braden Parker hit a shot at third baseman Reeder. Reeder fielded the ball and got Parker at first. First baseman Edelman, after getting the out, turned and fired it back to Reeder, who got Teel trying to take third for a double play. Garrity struck out the next batter to sit Ruckel down.

The Rams pulled off a double play of their own in the bottom half with Addison Moore, Aaron Jenkins and Gavin Dodds combining on a play.

In the top of the third, Destin sat the Rams down again with two grounders to Reeder and one to Cooper Stanford at second.

Ruckel grabbed another double play in the bottom half with Dodds catching a line drive at first and then catching the runner off the bag for two outs.

In the fourth inning, Destin didn’t give an inch on the Rams for no runs scored.

The fourth, however, was the inning for the Marlins as they batted through the line up one-and-a-half times scoring 10 runs. Blake Orr led with a double to left center and Stanford walked. Dylan Matekovich singled to left to load the bases. Garrity drilled one down the right field line to bring in two runs. Jackson Crews walked and Murphy slapped a double to right center for two runs. Edelman walked and Reeder hit a single. Logan Cann singled and Reeder was put out at second. Up next, Orr clobbered a fast ball over the left center fence for three RBIs. Stanford singled and scored on a hit from Garrity for a 14-2 lead.

The home run was Orr’s first in his middle school career. He said he had “no doubt” it was gone after he made contact.

In the top of the fifth, the Rams scored just enough to stay alive to play another inning. Braden Parker, Messmore and Chase Waters singled. Alec Morvac followed with a single to right for two RBIs. Waters scored on a ground out from Addison Moore.

In the sixth, Ruckel came up empty.

However, in the bottom half Destin got the one run needed for the run-ruling on the game. Stanford led with a single and moved around to second on a wild pitch. Matekovich walked and they both took another base on a passed ball. Up next, Garrity belted a single to right field to score Stanford for the win.

First-year Destin Coach Matthew Cawthon said he couldn’t be more proud of the team and bragged on his players.

“They all just love the game,” he said. “They are a great group of young men. It’s a direct reflection on their parents and the love they have for them and all the support. It takes everybody.

“We’ve got kids, parents and siblings who were all in and we got it done," he added. “We looked good as a team … we all swung the bat.”

As for the defense, “they got a lot of ground balls and that’s what it takes. I’ve been telling them since day one that defense wins championships. We stuck with it and now they are reaping the reward of it.

“I’m proud of these guys.”

Destin finished up the season 13-1 with a championship trophy.