Baseball: Jefferson fights back for close win

By BRENDAN GALELLA, Times Correspondent
Published March 2, 2008

TAMPA - Jefferson knew it had to turn its season around by finding different ways to neutralize Hillsborough's speed.

After surrendering three stolen bases in the first inning, the Dragons picked off three base runners and used the rule book to eject one of their quickest opponents in a 6-5 win.

In the sixth inning, Tyler Luper was thrown out of the game for not wearing his mouthpiece while batting. The Terriers received two previous warnings about the offense.

"I hate the rule, it's terrible. I think we're the only ones in the state to have it. But since it's there, we try and take advantage of that," Jefferson coach Pop Cuesta said. "Every time we play, we have everyone checking for mouthpiece violations, and today it helped."

Hillsborough (4-3) scored four runs in the top of the first with aggressive baserunning and timely hitting. Following three consecutive steals, designated hitter Randon Pinkney hit a two-run home run to cap the inning.

Jefferson (3-5) followed with two runs in the bottom of the first, but failed to capitalize with the bases loaded and stranded all three runners. Dragons' starter Dennis Lopez regained control of the game, allowing one run in five innings after a shaky start.

"I wasn't feeling right out there, but as the game went along, I came back and felt better," Lopez said.

The Dragons took the lead for good as catcher Ryan Regidor hit a pop fly with the bases loaded that dropped directly behind second base between the shortstop and centerfielder.

"This wasn't a typical win by any means, but we'll take it," Cuesta said. "We've been throwing games away with our defense, but hopefully now we see we can win from behind, and that might get us going."