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Bats come alive for Jefferson

Wharton leads early, then the Dragons find their swing in winning 11-9 and advancing to the Saladino Tournament quarterfinals.

By ROD GIPSON
Published March 23, 2005


TAMPA - Entering Tuesday's matchup against Jefferson, Wharton coach Scott Hoffman wasn't too concerned with his team's hitting. His starting pitching wasn't much of a concern either.

But relief pitching? That was a major issue.

True to form, an early Wharton lead evaporated behind spotty relief pitching and a good dose of Jefferson offense as the Dragons rallied to defeat the Wildcats 11-9. The loss ended any hope of Wharton advancing beyond the Saladino Tournament opening round.

"We had a tremendous effort early on," said Hoffman, whose Wildcats dropped to 3-6. "We were going good and then we just ran into a case where our pitchers were throwing too many pitches. You can't defend against walks."

Jefferson (9-2), meanwhile, was undefeated in division play and needed another win to advance to the quarterfinals.

"The good thing we're doing is that we're swinging our bats," coach Pop Cuesta said of Jefferson's 11-run, 10-hit effort. "But we're still making mistakes. Our errors have been overshadowed by the fact we're scoring runs."

But it was Wharton that scored the runs early, with shortstop Carlos Armstrong's three-run home run and centerfielder Kurt Knight's solo blast in the opening inning. Even when Jefferson struck back with three runs in the third, Wharton's offense responded with three runs during its next at-bat to take a seemingly commanding 7-3 lead.

But the Wildcats' lead began to unravel in the fourth, when the Dragons' bats knocked starting pitcher Jeff Bloomer from the game. Back-to-back-to-back doubles from Josh Collazo, Shawn Farris and Robert Gordon jump-started the Jefferson rally.

It was completed an inning later when the Dragons sent 12 up to bat, had four hits, including a Ferris home run, and scored six runs to take the lead.

Wharton went through four pitchers in attempting to stop the Jefferson onslaught, but none were effective.

The Wildcats made one last rally, but could only score twice to get within two. Bloomer, Knight and Stewart Young each had two hits for the Wildcats. Jefferson second baseman Fred Freeman led the Dragons' hit parade, collecting three hits, including a three-run home run. Collazo, Farris and Gordon each had two hits for Jefferson.

"We enjoyed the win," Cuesta said. "But we're also looking down the road. We know we're still making mistakes and that has to stop."