TURNER — Oxford Hills pitcher Troy Johnson fixed his struggling curveball before the first pitch then proceeded to pitch six innings of scoreless ball, as the Vikings defeated the Leavitt Hornets 16-1 on Monday to improve to 4-0 this baseball season.

Johnson worked out of a bases-loaded jam in the top of the first inning, then stranded three more runners in the next two innings. The first-inning jam proved crucial for Johnson’s success Monday.

“It was huge,” Johnson said. “I think it set the tone; our defense was huge and we really swung the bat today.”

Johnson’s correction of the curveball helped him strikeout six batters.

“I felt pretty good before, but I was kind of struggling with my curveball,” Johnson said. “But I got that down before the game so I was pretty confident going in. I just threw pitches and threw strikes.”

Prior to Monday, Oxford Hills had been struggling to push base runners home, leaving the bases loaded twice in their previous game against Mt. Ararat. Against Leavitt, they amassed 17 hits, with seven players getting multiple hits.

“It was the first time today that we were really swinging it,” Oxford Hills head coach Shane Slicer said. “We needed to get the bats going, we were hitting about .158 as a team. We were pressing a little bit and we haven’t had a lot of outdoor batting practice or nice weather. The sun came out and we were able to square a few up. I thought their approach was good. We did a good job on their offspeed stuff.”

The Vikings got on the board in the first inning on a double from Emery Chickering, which followed a 10-pitch at bat from Ashton Kennison.

Oxford Hills’s offense got going in the third, with singles from Hunter LaBossiere, Janek Luksza, Chickering and Johnson. The Vikings scored three runs in the third and three more in the fourth.

Johnson was also one of the main contributors offensively, going 3-5 with three runs batted in.

“A couple of at-bats I was looking for the curveball, because a couple of at-bats he was throwing curveball first pitch and whenever,” Johnson said. “I just hung that and got some good hits out of it. I think today we really got the bats out.”

In the fourth, Cam Slicer got on base to start the inning, and Luksza knocked him in with a double to left field. With two outs in the inning, Chickering swung and missed for a third strike, but the ball bounced away, allowing him to move to second base. The inning continued, and Chickering later scored.

Leavitt’s Brian Hewitt pitched four innings, allowing seven runs on eight hits. Despite the score, coach Larry Angello was optimistic following the Hornets’ outing.

“Obviously, the score didn’t show how well I think we played,” Angello said. “We had probably 10 hits and we had to have at least that many or more left on base.

“They’re a great baseball team. I am real happy with how our team played against a team that is that great. I think it’s a growing lesson for us. Until the top of the seventh, even though they were beating us 8-0, I felt like we were playing with them.”

The Vikings took an 8-0 lead into the seventh inning. Then, their bats got hot.

Will Dieterich led off the inning with a single, and was soon knocked in by a Luskza sacrifice fly. Kennison followed Luksza with a triple, but the throw to third went out of play and Kennison was able to score, clearing the bases. The Vikings amassed eight hits in the seventh and scored eight times.

The Hornets scored their lone run in the seventh off Kennison, who pitched the final inning for the Vikings, when Tim Albert’s sacrifice fly drove home Allen Peabody.

“I thought confidence-wise it was crucial that we took advantage of guys in scoring position, and Troy shut them out,” Slicer said. “Now we know we can hit, and if we get the bats going we can be a good team.”

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