By Eugenio Torrens
Land O’ Lakes and Tarpon Springs had met twice this season. The teams split the series, each one nabbing a 1-0 victory.
Through one and a half innings of their Class 6A-District 10 championship, tied at 1 apiece, it looked like more of the same low-scoring baseball played during the regular season.
Then the bottom of the second happened.
“We made one error that cost us a couple of runs, but the bottom line is they outplayed us,” said Gators coach Calvin Baisley.
The Spongers (23-4) tallied five runs on Land O’ Lakes (18-9) in the second to open up a game they won 7-1 at River Ridge April 26.
“They pitched better, they hit better, they fielded the ball better than we did,” Baisley said.
Trouble was brewing when Tarpon Springs’ Kyle Johnson reached first to load the bases with no outs. A Zachary Whitaker fielding error allowed the first run.
Another error translated into another tally for the Spongers. A sacrifice fly led to the first out, but also Tarpon Springs’ fourth run.
The next ball put in play was blasted. Gators left fielder Connor Stephens backed up toward the fence and initially made the catch, but crashed into the fence and dropped to the ground along with the ball.
Two more runs dashed across safely at home while Stephens lay on the ground, and the Gators were facing a 6-1 deficit.
Land O’ Lakes starting pitcher Ryan Wall was pulled after that and the Gators avoided further damage in the frame.
Despite allowing only one more run to the Spongers, Land O’ Lakes was unable to put runs on the board.
“I think they’ve got a pretty good pitching staff,” said Baisley, reflecting on the fact that his team has scored two total runs in three games against Tarpon Springs.
Gators junior second baseman and leadoff hitter Dylan Harris added, “I feel like we could have come out with more intensity tonight.”
Harris admitted they might have come out lackluster because win or lose, the team was still advancing to the playoffs.
“I guess we knew we were going to succeed, or going to the next game, and we just didn’t play the best that we could,” Harris said.
Harris was at a loss for words when trying to answer why the Gators bats seemed dead.
“I don’t know,” Harris said. “We usually hit the ball a lot better.”
Baisley echoed the sentiment.
“Two hits and one run is not going to win a lot of games,” Baisley said.
‘Canes fall in district finals
The Bishop McLaughlin baseball team lost the Class 3A-District 8 championship 3-2 to Tampa Prep April 27.
The host Hurricanes (18-9) took a 2-0 lead in the first inning on a Tanner Koch single, but the Terrapins (16-9) tied the score in the third and took the lead with a home run by Tyler Jarrell in the ninth.