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Fifty years ago, they were screwed-up kids sent to the Florida School for Boys to be straightened out. But now they are screwed-up men, scarred by the whippings they endured. Read the story and see a video and portrait gallery.
TAMPA - Jefferson found ways to come from behind in victories over Riverview and Wharton in Saladino Tournament play. The Dragons almost did it again Thursday, but came up short against the Eagles.
Down 5-0 entering the sixth inning, Jefferson pulled within two, then had a seventh-inning threat go by the boards when a runner was called out for interference.
Brandon moved ahead with single tallies in the first, second and fourth innings, along with a pair of runs in the fifth. In the first, after lead-off batter Justin Ball had walked, three of the next four batters were hit by pitches. After a sacrifice by Josh Russell and a pick-off attempt went awry, one run was in and the bases were loaded. Starting Dragons pitcher Joey Delgado got out without further damage when third baseman Peter Millan snared Reid Tilson's hard grounder, stepped on third and threw to first for the double play. Joey Lugo's grounder in the third and Ayron Burden's fly in the fifth drove in two more runs. When Brandon scored twice more in the fifth, the Eagles appeared to be comfortably ahead. But Jefferson came back. Brandon starter Hanani Kekuewa departed after throwing five scoreless innings, the Jefferson's Robert Gordon and Aaron Moore followed two walks and an error with singles that produced three runs and cut the Brandon lead to 5-3.
Then came the final inning.
Joey Rivera and Millan sandwiched walks around a fielder's choice to put runners on at first and second with one out. Designated hitter Josh Collazo, hitting .389, hit a slow roller to the pitcher. Plate umpire Hank Himmanen then called Collazo out at first for running inside the baseline as the throw sailed down the rightfield line.
Instead of having a run in and runners at second and third with one out and down 5-4, Jefferson found itself with runners at first and second, with two out. Then the game ended when Shawn Farris flied out to right. "From my angle, looking down the first base line, it was clear to me that the runner was well inside the base line and that is definitely an interference call," Himmanen said.
- JIM REESE, Times correspondent
ROBINSON 5, ARMWOOD 4
TAMPA - Robinson advanced to the quarterfinals with the toss of a coin.
To get to the semifinals, it was an errant toss from home plate to first base that moved the Knights past the Hawks.
Robinson trailed 4-1 after three innings, but leveled the game in the fourth inning thanks to an RBI double from shortstop Chris Mills and a pair of Armwood errors that led to two more runs.
In the seventh inning, with the bases loaded and one out, senior Kyle Weis hit what looked like an inning-ending double-play ball to third base. After the first out at home plate, the Hawks couldn't connect on a throw to first base that sailed into rightfield, scoring Bradley Roberts.
"Overall, I have to give it to the guys because they know how big this game is," Robinson coach Sal Urso said. "I didn't know until yesterday that we hadn't made it past the first round since 1982. That's a long time. So these guys want it more than ever because just because that we advanced on a coin toss."
Junior Greg Koons got the win for Robinson in relief for Stephen Adkins. Koons came in to close out the second inning and went the rest of the way, yielding three runs on six hits with three strikeouts and three walks.
Robinson reached the quarterfinals by winning a tiebreaker after it tied Plant and Chamberlain with a 2-1 record after pool play. Since a winner couldn't be settled by head-to-head games or runs scored, the Knights moved on by winning a coin flip.
Armwood (7-5) exits the tournament after its upset win over Jesuit in pool play.
"We let them stay in the game," Arwood coach Joey Fernandez said. "We had a chance to capitalize early in the game. We didn't and it came back to haunt us. They're a scrappy club. We knew that. Coach Urso does a great job with those kids. They did what they had to do."
- THOMAS SIMONETTI, Times correspondent
ALONSO 7, SICKLES 0
TAMPA - More than 30 major-league scouts lined the backstop at Sam Bailey Field, trying to get a gauge on Sickles right-hander Bradley Clark. Chances are they left impressed with Alonoso's offense.
The Ravens scored five runs in the first inning, advancing to the semifinals of the Saladino Tournament for the first time.
"Our philosophy is the same no matter who's pitching," Ravens coach Landy Faedo said. "We want to keep the same approach at the plate and not get caught up in all the hype."
The Ravens (8-2) battered Clark (4-1) from the outset, sending 10 to the plate in the first. After a walk and sacrifice bunt from Alonso's first two batters, the Ravens strung together five consecutive hits. Chris Whelan delivered a booming RBI triple to centerfield during the stretch, which was capped by a Neill Boyd run-scoring single.
"(Clark) is probably the top pitcher in the county, but we can swing the bats up and down the lineup," Faedo said. "It all came together."
The Sickles defense was little help to Clark in the first. The Gryphons (10-3) had a pair of errors and finished with four on the night.
"That was the worst we've played all season," coach Bob Pagano said. "We looked like a bunch of little leaguers out there."
Meanwhile, Alonso's Shane Effertz was in control. The senior left-hander tossed a complete-game shutout, scattering four hits and striking out seven. Effertz (2-1) walked four, but allowed just one baserunner past second. It was the Ravens' fourth shutout in as many tournament games.
"Our pitching doesn't get much publicity in the papers," Faedo said. "But (Effertz) stayed ahead (in the count) all night and shut them down."
Alonso's Daniel Rocha and Boyd each finished 2-for-3 with an RBI. Luis Rodriguez went 1-for-3 with a double for Sickles.
Faedo said sophomore righty Tommy Toledo will get the start tonight against Robinson.
- BRANDON WRIGHT, Times correspondent
AT UNIVERSITY OF TAMPA: Today - Brandon vs. Gaither, 4 p.m.; Sickles vs. Robinson, 7 p.m. Saturday - Championship, 7 p.m.
AT TAMPA PREP: Today - Cambridge vs. Mater Academy, 10 a.m.; Tampa Prep vs. Pendleton, 7 p.m.