TAMPA - Miami Gulliver Prep broke open a tight game with a three-run sixth inning, defeating Orlando Bishop Moore 9-4 Wednesday and advancing to today's 3A final against Pensacola Catholic.
Leading 5-2, Gulliver Prep loaded the bases on consecutive singles to open the sixth. Bishop Moore (25-4) reliever Mike Mehlich retired the next two, but Ramon Corona cleared the bases with a high chopper that bounced over the head of the third baseman and down the leftfield line.
The Raiders set the tone early with three runs in the first and single runs in each of the next two innings. Gulliver Prep (23-6) took advantage of three Hornets' errors and stole three bases during that stretch. Jorge Castillo drove in two of the five runs with a first-inning double and third-inning sacrifice fly.
"We've won the last couple of games by scoring early," Raiders coach Lazaro Collazo said. "It's especially good to get two or three runs early with a pitcher as dominant as Chris Garcia."
Garcia (10-1), who never had pitched at any level before this season, proved to be as dominant as he was erratic. The 6-foot-5 senior right-hander gave up four hits and struck out eight in 52/3 innings, but also had three wild pitches and fired numerous balls to the backstop with no one on base.
ROCKLEDGE 9, PALM BEACH CENTRAL 1: Rockledge exploded for five runs in the fourth inning, then went on to thump Palm Beach Central. The Raiders, who will make their first final appearance, sent 10 batters to the plate in the fifth, blowing open a scoreless tie. Rockledge pounded out five hits in the inning, with five consecutive Raiders scoring. Brian Cook's (2-for-2, 3 RBIS) two-run double began the scoring and Jeremy Revers' RBI groundout capped the rally.
"(Rockledge) is a good hitting club," Broncos coach Scott Benedict said. "We'd play them one way (in the fourth) and they'd hit it the other."
Palm Beach Central (22-9), a first-year school with no seniors, mounted few scoring threats against starter A.J. Holbeck (3-1). Holbeck was not overpowering, but the sophomore right-hander effectively mixed up his pitches while consistently working the corners of the plate. Holbeck struck out only two, but didn't walk a batter in going the distance.
Michael Burton's (2-for-3, three RBIs) two-run double capped off a four-run fifth that put Rockledge up 9-0. Nick Smith's (2-for-2, two doubles) sacrifice fly in the seventh spoiled Holbeck's shutout bid.
WINTER HAVEN 4, TATE 3: Winter Haven (27-4) turned back the Aggies, opening a four-run early lead, then holding off a late threat to win.
In the second inning, Winter Haven scored four runs on six singles and might have had more if rightfielder Jake Meier had not been picked off rounding first after driving in two runs with a hard single to right. The Blue Devils batted around in the inning, leaving two runners on base.
Meanwhile, Winter Haven's Jordan Schafer pitched effectively, allowing only four hits and zero runs through four.
Schafer aided his cause with two hits as did fellow Blue Devils Justin Bamberg and Jon Turner. Tate (26-4) began a comeback in the fifth when a Winter Haven error allowed shortstop David Doss to score. Tate added single runs in the sixth and seventh innings to pull to 4-3.
The Aggies had an opportunity in the final inning with runners at the corners and no outs. Schafer picked off Josh Windham on first, and, two batters later, the Blue Devils were headed to tonight's final.