tampabay.com

Gators hold off Mustangs

By MIKE TOMPKINS
Published March 23, 2005


TRINITY - An opportunistic Land O'Lakes team, playing for the first time in 10 days, relied on stolen bases and sacrifices to jump to a 4-0 lead against Mitchell, then held on for a 4-3 victory over its Class 5A, District 5 foe.

The Gators stole six bases in six attempts off starting pitcher Derek Shaw and catcher Cody Bracy.

"They battled and they came back and made it a game. Like I told our guys, we did everything we needed to do to win," Gators coach Calvin Baisley said. "We ran bases, we played defense, we moved runners, we scored guys - and we held on for dear life."

Land O' Lakes (3-1, 2-0 in district) scored early, with two runs in the the second inning. Following a walk by Anthony Santa, Danny Poletti drove a double down the leftfield line, advancing Santa to third.

The next batter, Jonathan Brewster, drove one to deep centerfield, scoring Santa and moving Poletti to third. Jacob Neely followed Brewster to the plate and knocked one into left-center, driving in Poletti.

In a game dominated by defense, Neely had arguably the game's best offensive night, going 2-for-2 with one run batted in. He walked once and stole half of the Gators' bases.

Land O'Lakes' lead reached 3-0 in the fourth, when Poletti scored on a sacrifice fly by Danny Sutton. In the sixth, Santa single-handedly accounted for the Gators' final run. He drove a 3-1 pitch up the middle for a hit, stole second, stole third, then came home when Bracy underthrew third baseman Ryan Garton, sending the ball into leftfield.

In the sixth, Mitchell (6-5, 1-1) found some life against starter Jonathan Cornelius, who struck out nine and allowed two earned runs in 61/3 innings.

With one out, Shaw hit a grounder down the first-base line, which was misplayed by first-baseman Caz Piurowski. Cornelius then walked C.J. Hanson, and the next batter, Garton, drove a double down the leftfield line, scoring Shaw.

The Gators southpaw walked Theo Pampanos, after which Bracy drove in Hanson and Garton with a single. Cornelius got behind pinch-hitter Tony Shaffer 2-0 before Baisley called upon reliever Joe Odom.

Odom struck out Shaffer on three, then got pinch-hitter Spencer Williams to fly-out to right. Piurowski came on in the seventh, allowing a single before closing out the game.

"I was proud that we came back," Mustangs coach Phil Bell said. "We need a big hit. Someone needs to step up. We only made the one error, and that was the difference."