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Slam gives Terriers win

Mike Burgess helps an overtaxed rotation and hits the deciding homer as Hillsborough tops Durant.

By THOMAS SIMONETTI
Published March 20, 2005


TAMPA - In pursuit of its first Saladino Tournament title in 12 years, Hillsborough started out in a hole.

Though it wasn't originally scheduled to be that way, the Terriers were one of only two of the 24 teams participating in the event to play a regular season game the day before it opened the Saladino. And the tournament can put a strain on pitching staffs on its own.

But Saturday the Terriers came through late, as Mike Burgess not only made his first high school start on the mound but also delivered the winning grand slam in a 13-9 victory over Durant. The Terriers rallied from an early 5-0 deficit.

Burgess got into trouble in the first and second innings.

In the bottom of the fourth, the Terriers put together four runs including run-scoring singles by catcher Casey Nunez and shortstop Alexander Cook.

In the fifth Burgess moved to centerfield and Brett Collins came in to pitch. After one out, Orlando Bacon relieved Collins and finished the game. After 61/2 innings, Durant extended the lead to 9-6.

Run-scoring singles by senior Stephan Davis and Burgess in the sixth brought Hillsborough to within a run.

Even after struggling with his pitching, Burgess' bat made the difference.

"I was still up because I wanted to come back in the field and help my team win," Burgess said. "I knew I had to focus on hitting and catching fly balls."

In the seventh, Burgess hit a grand slam to centerfield that had the Terriers running hysterically out of the dugout.

"I couldn't even talk in my team meeting," Terriers coach Pat Russo said. "I had to gather myself. These guys have finally put it all together. We haven't played that way in four years. They just never quit. There were guys that were fired up."

On Friday, with the Terriers in the middle of a tight district race with King, Russo pitched senior 6-foot-8 ace Mark McClure in a game against the Lions that, because of rain all week, was moved to Friday.

That left the Terriers facing four games in five days and forced Russo to use Burgess, an untested reliever, against Durant.

"We had our rotation set for the tournament," Russo said. "We had to switch it because we had to play that district game."

King was the only other Saladino team to play back-to-back games Friday and Saturday.

Leto and Sickles played a regular season game Friday but don't play Saladino games until Monday.

The only thing Hillsborough has to worry about now is tournament games. At 7 p.m. Monday the Terriers play Gaither, who beat Hillsborough 8-0 to open the season.