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Gainesville baseball drops its very first home game but is eager to keep building

Patriot 13, Gainesville 6

Gainesville Coach John Miller talks to a player before Wednesday's game, the first at home for his squad. (Julia Nikhinson for The Washington Post)

Gainesville’s Caden Merritt fired the first pitch right down the middle, and Patriot’s Caleb Ramey wanted none of it.

The umpire called it a strike, and the ball was tossed toward the dugout. That ball — just one of dozens of strikes thrown Wednesday night — was special. It was the first pitch ever thrown during a home game at Gainesville High.

In its inaugural season, the Cardinals are keeping track of their mementos. After all, as Coach John Miller put it, “Every time you do something, it’s the first time in school history that it’s been done.”

There were plenty of firsts for the Cardinals on Wednesday despite their 13-6 loss. After Merritt’s first strike came the first hit at home, courtesy of Jeremy Hayden in the bottom of the first. He was also the first to record an RBI, sending Carson Cates home with a double in the fifth. Although the result left something to be desired, the game remained an important milestone for the team.

“It’s a really cool moment to be in, and it’ll be here forever,” Hayden said.

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The players from the first-year school had to wait for their special day. The Cardinals (8-4, 4-2 Cedar Run) were set to play on the road for the first three weeks of the season, their first home game slated for April 5. But inclement weather kept Gainesville away from its home field for two weeks longer than planned.

The Cardinals didn’t let that derail a strong start. They entered Wednesday on a five-game winning streak, including going 4-0 to win the Jeff Baker Classic.

After months of planning, building and maintaining a new field — and easier-to-overlook things such as setting up concessions and training an announcer — Gainesville finally hosted its first game.

“It’s always exciting to start something new,” Miller said. “And to build on it and build a culture the way you want it, built on ownership — it’s something that we preach.”

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Miller and his players hope to create something that outlives them. After putting Wednesday’s loss behind them, they will look to continue doing just that.

“It’s cool to just know that you’re building a culture and a program,” Merritt said. “I think here in a few years, we’re going to be something to remember.”

Patriot’s win boosted its record to 7-3 overall and 3-2 in district play.