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Ace Jono Cornelius goes the distance for Land O'Lakes in an 8-0 win over Central.
By DAVID MURPHY
Published February 22, 2006
BROOKSVILLE - During his pre-game bull-pen session Tuesday night, Land O'Lakes pitcher Jono Cornelius was feeling, in his words, "uneasy." His arm didn't hurt, but nevertheless he struggled to place his offspeed pitches, and by the time the Gators' season opener against Central began, the senior starter was unsure of what lay ahead.
"I didn't think I had my best stuff," Cornelius said afterward.
That feeling lasted for all of six pitches.
Cornelius struck out the side in the first inning and went on to pitch a complete-game masterpiece, striking out 17 of 23 batters and allowing just two base-runners in an 8-0 victory.
"He didn't put many pitches up in the strike zone, and he threw his curveball for a strike," Land O'Lakes coach Calvin Baisley said. "He was on."
Cornelius more than made up for a Land O'Lakes line-up that for five innings struggled to make solid contact against Central starter T.R. Ross.
Until a seven-run explosion in the sixth inning, the Gators tallied just three hits and did not move a runner past second base.
But Cornelius made sure the Bears didn't find their swings either. He struck out nine of the first 10 and had a no-hitter going until the fifth inning, when Cody Ball legged out an infield single.
The only other baserunner he allowed came on a walk in the second inning.
"I felt great," Cornelius said.
Central hung around until the sixth inning. That's when the Gators' line-up finally came through, putting seven runs on the board behind five hits and an error. The first five batters in the inning reached base safely, eventually scoring.
Cornelius helped out his cause, hitting a two-run single that gave the Gators a 5-0 lead.
The inning, which Land O'Lakes left with a 7-0 lead, brought an unfortunate end to an otherwise solid outing for Ross, who eventually was replaced by reliever Ryan Homan.
"He threw the ball well," Central coach Dan O'Rourke said. "He got tired."