By Jeff Odom
Logan LaPace has become the Steinbrenner baseball team’s go-to-guy on the mound in clutch situations.
Faced with the task of starting the Warriors’ (24-2) first playoff game in program history May 4, the senior right-handed pitcher delivered a near-flawless complete-game performance as Steinbrenner dominated Seminole 6-1 in the Class 7A region quarterfinals.
“It’s just awesome to know that no other Steinbrenner baseball team has been this far, and it means a lot to me and all of my teammates who have put in just as much work and effort as I have,” LaPace said. “Even though I threw a gem, they still put up six runs on one of the best pitchers in the state.”
It was also Steinbrenner coach John Crumbley’s first postseason victory since 2006 when he was at Jesuit.
Crumbley said he was proud of his team for the work put in to stay focused after the game was postponed two days because of rain.
“It feels awesome, man,” said Crumbley, the only coach in program’s four-year history. “The kids worked hard; we worked hard getting the field ready, and it’s just tremendous to take another step to be one of the 16 or 17 teams that are still playing.”
The Warriors jumped on Warhawks (20-8) ace Nick Nolan in the first inning by stringing together three hits to take a 2-0 lead.
University of South Florida commit Kevin Merrell singled down the first base line with one out and moved to second on Cole Gordon’s base hit up the middle. Jesse Haney drove in Merrell with an RBI double, and Mijon Cummings plated another run two pitches later with a sacrifice fly.
Seminole cut the lead to one in the third inning when Corey Baptist smacked an RBI single.
Steinbrenner’s offense wouldn’t keep it that way for long in the bottom of the third.
Merrell singled to right and stole second with one out, followed by Gordon’s RBI base hit to right to extend the lead to two. Haney broke the game open when he crushed a two-run home run to left field to make it 5-1.
“I was just looking for a pitch to hit and it was 3-2,” Haney said. “When it got to that point, he had to come to me. I was ready for it.”
The Warriors added an insurance run in the fourth when Alex Hanson singled home Mikey McGuire, who had been hit by a pitch and advanced to third on a passed ball.
LaPace said the run support gave him confidence.
“We kind of feed off each other’s positive and good vibes,” LaPace said. “When one person does something good and positive it kind of has a domino effect, and we all build off of that and push ourselves to one-up what they just did.”
LaPace sat down 11 in a row and didn’t allow another hit until the seventh inning.
“Logan has done that most of the time for us this year,” Crumbley said. “Hopefully, we’ll be able to go out there and give him an opportunity to do it again.”
Steinbrenner hosts Wiregrass Ranch in the region semifinals May 7 at 7 p.m.
Gators fall at Winter Haven
The Land O’ Lakes baseball team had its season ended at Winter Haven in the Class 6A regional quarterfinals for the second straight year, falling 12-2 in five innings. The Gators (21-7) took a 2-0 lead in the third inning, but the Blue Devils (24-4) responded with three in the bottom of the frame to earn a lead they never lost.
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