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Preps

Panthers prevail in marathon

Plant captures the Saladino Tournament championship 3-2 over Chamberlain in 14 innings.

By MIKE READLING
Published March 27, 2004

TAMPA - It's not often players get three chances in one night to be the hero.

Of course, it's not often they get to bat seven times and make up for striking out three times in a row.

That was exactly what Plant sophomore Dylan Brown got Friday night in the championship game of the Saladino Tournament. And he took full advantage.

Brown rocked a Bobby Ebberly pitch to deep centerfield, scoring Chris McCurdy from third base with the winning run in a 3-2 Plant win over Chamberlain. The 14-inning affair is the longest game in the Saladino Tournament's 24-year history, breaking the record of 12 innings set in 1990 and '92.

The tournament title is the first for Plant since 2000 and a welcome sight for a team which lost in the final last season. It was a win, however, that was a long time in the coming.

The Panthers (12-2) were one strike away from pulling out the win in regulation but were done in by Steven Howard's speed.

First, Howard hit a high chopper to third and beat Matt Rodriguez's throw by diving to the first base bag. Howard then stole second and third, which was where he stood when Plant pitcher Johnny Williams threw a 2-2 pitch to Nelson Garcia in the dirt.

Garcia swung at strike three for what would have been the final out but the pitch skittered away from catcher David Llona, allowing Garcia to reach and, more important, bringing home Howard with the tying run.

Plant tried to rally in the bottom of the seventh but Corey Brown and Dylan Brown ended the inning with a strikeout-throwout double play.

Howard relieved Austin Evans in the bottom of the seventh and was masterful. He pitched seven innings, allowed no runs on two hits and struck out 13.

The Panthers wasted an opportunity in the 12th when Andrew Kuykendall, who was named the Tournament MVP, led off with a triple to the centerfield wall. But he was stranded there as Ryan McCurdy grounded to first and Chris McCurdy and Dylan Brown sandwiched strikeouts around an intentional walk to Corey Brown.

Last year's Saladino Award winner, Brandon McArthur, threw out the first pitch, another step in his recovery from injuries incurred in an attack this fall at the University of Florida, where he is on a baseball scholarship.

Panther wins home run derby

TAMPA - It was billed as a home run derby. A chance for one player from each team to take 10 swings at the Sam Bailey Field fence.

It turned into an exercise in consistency.

Of the eight who qualified for the second round, only one recorded four hits. And though none were home runs, Plant's Corey Brown accumulated enough points to take home the trophy.

The left-handed Brown used the stiff wind blowing in from leftfield and over the rightfield fence to lace two balls off the wall (two points each) and collect two more singles to win with six points.

King's Ralph Quintana, Hillsborough's T.J. Alonzo and Alonso's Matt Freshcorn tied for second with five.

"I really wanted to do this contest this year," Brown said. "I participated my sophomore year and didn't do very well. And last year, Coach didn't want me in because we were playing in the championship game."

Plant played in Friday's final, but Brown said he begged coach Bo Puckett to let him hit.

Of the 270 swings, only five were homers. Armwood's Kevin Clark hit the first one. And Quintana, Alonzo and Freshcorn connected, but it was Brown who got the most ooohs.

He drilled a first-round pitch over the 40-foot rightfield screen, about 375 feet from home plate.

"I just told (teammate Ryan McCurdy) to throw them middle-in," Brown said. "And he did a great job."

[Last modified March 27, 2004, 02:10:29]


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