For East Lake, it's better late than ever
Down five, Eagles battle back to beat Ridgewood 8-7 in Tom Varn Invitational title game.
By FRANK PASTOR, Times Staff Writer
Published February 29, 2004
BROOKSVILLE - No matter the outcome, East Lake learned a valuable lesson, coach Lee Byers said. That the Eagles won was merely a bonus.
Down five runs after three innings, a young East Lake squad battled back to beat Ridgewood 8-7 in the championship game of the Tom Varn Invitational on Saturday at Hernando High.
The Eagles (4-0) repeated as champions despite returning only three players with varsity experience.
"The fact they were able to come back was the positive in this game," Byers said.
Drew Turnier scored the winning run when Travis McSweeney walked with the bases loaded in the top of the sixth. Ridgewood put a runner on third in the bottom of the inning, but Pete Ganci struck out James Noto to end the threat.
Ridgewood (3-1), aided by Aaron McLamar's two-run home run in the first, jumped out to a 5-2 lead. The Rams tacked on two more runs with the help of three East Lake errors in the third.
But the Eagles clawed back with three in the fifth, highlighted by McSweeney's two-run single past a drawn-in infield, and three more in the sixth.
Bill Manion sparked the rally with a double down the first-base line, putting runners at second and third with one out. After Jon Koenigsfeld walked Turnier to load the bases, he hit Dan Boucher with a pitch, allowing Donnie Hathaway to score.
Shannon Eva relieved Koenigsfeld and enticed Brett Foley to ground to second baseman Joe Moll. Moll threw to the plate, and Manion was called out by the home-plate umpire even though catcher Jeremy Coolidge dropped the ball. But the call was overturned after a meeting with the first-base umpire.
McSweeney's bases-loaded walk then plated Turnier with the go-ahead run. Intensity keyed the comeback, Manion said.
"The team needs a lot of confidence," Manion said. "When we're down, we're not scoring runs. But when we have intensity like the last couple of innings, we're scoring runs."
Freshman Chris Newell and Ganci held Ridgewood scoreless over the final four innings. "Against a team like this, you've got to get (the runners) in," Ridgewood coach Larry Beets said. The game capped what Hernando coach and tournament co-director Tim Sims called "the worst weather year ever." Rain washed out Tuesday's games, forcing the schedule to be moved up a day.
Still, the competition in the 16-team tourney was typically strong.
"We had a final four participant the last three years in this tournament," Sims said, "and it would not surprise me at all if we make it a fourth."
[Last modified February 29, 2004, 01:15:11]
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