By Jeff Odom
Laker/Lutz News Correspondent
The Steinbrenner baseball team knocked off Wiregrass Ranch 9-4 on March 23 to claim the Class 7A-District 9 lead.
Senior pitcher Chris Williams, a St. Leo University signee, went 5.1 innings while striking out four batters en route to his third win of the season.
“It’s about time,” Williams said. “It’s been a wild ride so far this year. I think we have a very good team and all of the guys are great and early on we struggled a little bit, but we’ve really pulled it together these past couple weeks.”
The Warriors (9-6) didn’t waste much time getting to Bulls (11-3) senior pitcher Ryan Kopenski (4-2, 2.67 ERA) as the hit parade began early in the third inning. With shortstop Stone Ramsey standing on third base, centerfielder Kevin Merrell busted a double down the first base line to score the senior and give the Warriors an early advantage.
Steinbrenner coach John Crumbley said the game plan was to take advantage of every scoring situation given to his team.
“What we’ve done the last two district games against Freedom and Wiregrass, is have a lot more quality swings throughout the game,” Crumbley said. “The little things that we try to work on have worked in situations, and the kids have come through.”
With his team up by four in the fourth inning, Williams faced a tough task with two runners on and one out. But after Bulls first baseman Joel Marin moved both into scoring position, Williams used a heavy dose of movement in his pitches sending his counterpart, Kopenski, back to the dugout with his third strikeout.
“I never have liked a 1-2-3 inning, ever, so anytime I get into the jam, I’m used to it by now,” Williams said. “I just told myself ‘take a deep breath and just make the pitch.’ That’s my mindset right there.”
In the top of the sixth, the Warriors would begin to pull away by tacking on four more runs and chasing two pitchers out of the game. Junior designated hitter Cole Gordon started the inning with a solo home run. It gave his squad momentum as Steinbrenner loaded the bases twice in the inning thanks to a pair of walks and two base hits.
Crumbley said his team knows it doesn’t have much time left to get wins before the district tournament in April and has to stay focused.
“I just think we’ve done the little things we preach in practice and we’ve done them better this week,” Crumbley said. “If you can’t be fired up to come out here and play the game, because it’s going to end for everybody sooner or later, then I don’t know what I can tell you.”
Williams adds the team has to stay consistent to keep its No. 1 seed.
“We definitely have to do the same thing we’ve been doing,” Williams said. “We have the guys who can hit the long ball, and we just have to get guys over. We didn’t do that at the first part of the season, but recently we have and we’ve been very successful with that.”
Steinbrenner hosts district rival Chamberlain, while Wiregrass Ranch travels fellow 7A-9 member Freedom on March 27. Both games start at 7 p.m.
–All stats as recorded to Maxpreps.com by coaches
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