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Panthers' four-run rally sends Lions to 6-5 loss


© St. Petersburg Times, published March 23, 2003

TAMPA -- Plant got off to a winning start in Saturday's opening round of the Saladino Tournament by staging a late rally to defeat King 6-5.

Trailing 5-2 in the bottom of the sixth inning, Plant (9-2) put together a walk, three hits, a sacrifice fly and a miscue by King to score four runs and take the lead.

"Our guys really hung in there today," Plant coach Bo Puckett said. "We have come from behind so many times this season that our players feel they are never out of a game."

Plant opened the bottom of the sixth with Ryan Hudson drawing a walk. Singles by Corey Brown and Andy Jouquin followed, the latter of which drove in Hudson, making the score 5-3. A sacrifice fly and a single by Nathan Simpson added two more runs. The winning run scored on a Lions error in the outfield.

"We got 11 hits today and normally that will win most high school baseball games for you," veteran King coach Jim Macaluso said. "But give credit where it is due. Coach Puckett did a fine job keeping his boys in the game."

Panther pitcher Patrick Goitia, who pitched three innings of relief for starter David Gandy, held King (8-2) in check long enough for his teammates to catch up.

King moved out to a 2-0 lead in the first when Marcus Causey doubled and came home on a single by Jason Aprile. Aprile then stole second and scored on a single by Rafael Quintana.

In the second, King's Steven Carmen laced a triple to deep right and came home on a sacrifice fly by Zach Grace to make it 3-0.

Plant managed to score two runs in the second without a hit on a walk, a pair of King errors and a sacrifice bunt by Jouquin, cutting the lead to 3-2.

King first baseman Quintana added a solo home run to open the third. In the fifth, King starter Stephen Locke singled to left, sending Aprile all the way home from first, putting King up 5-2.

"Our kids kept plugging in spite of being down," Puckett said. "This team has character. That's why beating a team of King's caliber is such a boost for us."

In other games Saturday at Sickles, Plant City scored six runs in the sixth to pull away from Wharton, 11-3. And in the late game, Middleton defeated Sickles 3-2.

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