Trojans blank Patriots to open season

Photo by Danny Aller

Photo by Danny Aller

LEESBURG -- Even without its No. 1 starter for the foreseeable future, Lee County baseball may still have one of the strongest pitching staffs in the area.

Newcomer Phillip Anderson, a junior transfer from Thomson High School, put up zeros for five innings Thursday in the Trojans' season-opening, 5-0, win against Westover High School.

Anderson, Justin Walker and Cole Goodwin -- all juniors -- combined to throw a three-hit shutout, although it was difficult for both teams to get the bats going thanks to a stinging cold night.

"I thought we pitched really well, but we need to string some hits together and play better defense," Lee County head coach Rob Williams said. "Three errors, all routine. We've got to make those plays."

Anderson, who was called on to open the season for No. 1 starter Justin McCalvin out after offseason surgery, took a no-hitter into the fourth inning before the Patriots' Michael Schlegel singled. Anderson left after completing five shutout innings, allowing just two hits on 51 pitches. He struck out seven and walked none.

Along with the absence of McCalvin, sophomore shortstop Jess Posey missed the opener due to sickness. He was scheduled to pitch next at Colquitt County -- the Trojans' opener that was rained out Tuesday, then rescheduled for noon Saturday -- but may also miss that game, Williams said.

Matthew Suggs will pitch if Posey can't go.

Westover hung around Thursday thanks to sophomore lefty Robert Daniel's pitching, which improved as the night wore on. Daniel ran into trouble in the third inning, which was prolonged by two Westover errors.

Chase Patrick and Anderson each had RBI doubles to cap a three-run inning, putting Lee County (1-0) ahead 4-0. Chase Griffin laced a run-scoring single in the first inning to open the scoring.

Daniel settled in and finished with six innings of work, allowing five runs (three earned) on seven hits. He threw 110 pitches and struck out nine, walking just one.

"He's got all the tools," Patriots coach Kevin Fretwell said of Daniel. "This is almost like a win playing a powerhouse like Lee County. We've just got to get the bats to wake up a little bit and avoid these simple errors."

Westover (0-2) got its three hits from Schlegel, Nick Lane and Wes Buchanan.

And while all but one of the Trojans' starting lineup reached base, none had more than one hit. Patrick went 1-for-3 with a RBI and two runs scored.

Westover returns to the diamond today in a doubleheader at the Bearcat Invitational in Bainbridge. The Patriots will play Liberty County (Fla.) and Marianna (Fla.) beginning at 4 p.m.