By JOEL COLEMAN
ACKERMAN – Coming into Friday's playoff-opening game at home against Bruce, Ackerman head coach Brad Mitchell knew the Trojans' bats had the reputation of packing plenty of punch.
Once things got underway, the Bruce offense didn't disappoint.
Ackerman fell behind big early and couldn't solve Bruce starting pitcher Reed Gregory as the Indians fell to the Trojans 15-0 in the first game of this best of three series.
"We made too many errors and had too many mistakes for a game like this," said Mitchell. "Still, give credit to Bruce. That's the best hitting high school team I've seen in a while and that's from (Class A to Class 6A)."
Bruce (13-7) took control in the first inning against Ackerman sophomore starting pitcher Dakota Brasher.
Brasher issued a leadoff walk to Bruce's Barrett Wooten just ahead of a single from Jay King.
Two batters later, Matthew McDowell notched a run-scoring single that accounted for the first run of what went on to become a three-run rally.
Gregory and Codie McMahan also recorded RBIs in the frame, but the Trojans offense didn't stop there.
After Gregory pitched a scoreless bottom of the first, Bruce came out with a five-spot in the top of the second.
Capping that outburst was Gregory, whose two-run double pushed the Trojans' advantage to 8-0.
"Our whole team gets up and sets a goal to get two hits each a game," said Gregory "If everybody can get going and get those hits, you can win a lot of baseball games that way.
"When I'm up there, I just try to look for my pitch and if it doesn't come, I just try to hit the ball where it's placed."
As good as Gregory was at the plate, he was even better on the mound, hurling all six innings of the mercy-rule-shortened contest while allowing just two hits – a single each from Ackerman's Nevin Lang and Taylor Stephenson.
"My curveball was working real good and my fastball was working pretty good," said Gregory.
With Gregory dealing and the bats in full gear, Bruce head coach Sid Burt couldn't have been more thrilled with his team's play.
"There's no way we could be more pleased," said Burt. "I thought (Gregory) was amazing. He was getting ahead and just pounding the strike zone."
Burt gave credit to all the early runs for letting his starting pitcher relax from the first pitch on.
"It's always easier to pitch with a lead," said Burt. "We've been a little sluggish the last couple of weeks so it felt good for us to jump out ahead."
The early hole was simply too much for Ackerman (9-12) to overcome.
Brasher settled down in the middle innings before the Bruce offense reignited late to force the ten-run rule.
With the win, Bruce will get its first chance to clinch the series today in Bruce at 2 p.m.
An Ackerman win would force a series-deciding game later on Saturday.
Whoever captures the best-of-three set will face Class 2A, Region 1 winner Mantachie in the second round of the playoffs beginning April 29.