By Jeff Odom
Land O’ Lakes baseball coach Calvin Baisley wasn’t sure what to expect from his team against Wiregrass Ranch April 10 after a puzzling loss to Ridgewood two days earlier.
It took the host Gators (17-3) just one pitch, a lead-off home run by senior Dylan Harris, to give him the answer he was looking for as his squad got to Bulls (13-6) pitcher Zach Drury early en route to a 7-3 win.
“Our kids respond to a challenge,” Baisley said. “We have faced the best pitchers around, and they take it as a challenge. … Dylan just got right on that first pitch, and that set the tone from there.”
Harris, a Saint Leo University signee, said he was looking for a good pitch to drive early in the at bat.
“I was trying to get our team started, and we hadn’t been scoring runs the last few games,” Harris said. “I saw a pitch elevated in the zone, and I got it and drove it out.”
After Harris’ homer, Drury walked Josh Nissen and allowed Alex Reynolds to reach on an error.
That’s when they broke it open.
Pitcher Zach Whitaker singled to right field to score Nissen, followed by Quintin Perez’s two-RBI base hit to left field two batters later to extend the Land O’ Lakes’ lead to 4-0. Drury ended the inning with two strikeouts.
The Bulls responded in the second inning.
Alex Goebel, Shane Bucenell and Alex Fernandez each singled to start the frame. Goebel scored on Ryan Girard’s fielder’s choice, and a wild pitch allowed Bucenell to score from third.
A single to center by Austin Drury made it 4-3, but that’s all Wiregrass Ranch would get.
“I was just getting bad luck on a few hits and I threw good pitches, but they were able to get a few bloopers,” Whitaker said. “I tried not to get too rattled, because sometimes I let my emotions get the best of me.”
The Gators took advantage of three walks, a Connor Stephens double and another error to add three more runs in the second inning to go ahead 6-3.
Drury departed with one out in the third after an infield single by Austin Conner, another wild pitch that allowed another run to score and a double to right field by Harris. The Wiregrass Ranch junior finished with five earned runs, four walks and five strikeouts in his second-shortest outing of the season.
Whitaker kept the Bulls scoreless for the next three innings, but it wasn’t easy.
Wiregrass Ranch loaded the bases with two outs in the fourth, but came up empty. The Bulls also had runners in scoring position in the fifth, but again couldn’t take advantage as Nissen relieved Whitaker and forced a groundout.
Nissen stifled the Wiregrass Ranch offense the rest of the way with six straight ground balls to secure the win.
“I know they’ve got good hitters, but I wanted to make sure I hit my spots and pick up Zach,” Nissen said. “He worked hard out there on the mound all night and he got some jams, but our hitting and defense had our back.”
Land O’ Lakes travels to Central April 17 and Wiregrass Ranch plays at cross-town rival Wesley Chapel April 16. Both games start at 7 p.m.
Leave a Reply
You must be logged in to post a comment.