LITHIA — Bloomingdale baseball coach Kris Wilken said his star pitcher, Logan Crouse, shines best when the opponent has runners in scoring position.
That was evident Monday against Gaither.
After allowing a triple against the first batter he faced, Crouse struck out the following two batters and forced a groundout for the third out. That first inning was enough momentum for Crouse to pitch a complete-game shutout, 3-0, at Newsome on the second day of the annual Saladino Tournament.
“You just have to come back even harder,” said Crouse of responding to the leadoff triple. “The next three guys, you just have to go down and get them out.”
“To me, so far this year that’s when Logan has been at his best,” Wilken said. “(There were) a couple of other instances this year when big runs got on base in scoring position with less that two outs. He digs deep and gets better.”
Crouse allowed three hits and finished with 11 strikeouts, no walks but hit two batters. He picked off a runner at second and also helped himself with an RBI and a single.
“I felt good,” Crouse said. “I felt like I was in the zone. I came ready to play today.”
Crouse hit a bases-loaded groundout to third to score Josh Mote that gave Bloomingdale a 1-0 lead in the third inning. In the fifth inning, the Bulls, the defending Saladino champions, loaded the bases again, this time with two outs, setting up a two-run double by sophomore Austin James for a 3-0 lead.
“Austin is a streaky hitter,” Wilken said. “When he’s locked in, you can kind of tell. I could tell from the third base box. I felt like he had a few decent swings, he just got under a couple of balls today. So when he came up in that situation I had a pretty good feeling he was going to do something big and hit that ball hard.”
Bloomingdale is trying to reach the tournament championship for the third consecutive year.
“Win until you can’t win no more,” Crouse said.
Baker pitches Sickles past Armwood 9-3
TAMPA — The Sickles Gryphons came into Monday’s game a little concerned about their arms — namely the number of them that would remain fresh through this week’s Saladino Tournament.
The concern started Saturday when Sickles used four pitchers in an 11-inning victory against Robinson. One of those pitchers was Grant Baker, who threw two innings Saturday, but came back to start Monday.
Baker came out strong and cruised through five innings, scattering five hits and giving up just two runs as the Gryphons beat Armwood 9-3.
“I didn’t throw that many pitches on Saturday, so today I felt fine,” said Baker, who threw 81 pitches Monday. “My change-up was pretty good.”
After Monday’s pitching performance, Sickles (7-3, 2-0 in Saladino) is back in decent shape when it comes to available arms. Gryphon Troy Bacon will get the start tonight in the Pool F championship against Alonso, which also is 2-0 in the tournament with plans to start its ace, Alex Faedo.
“We look forward to the challenge,” Gryphons coach Bob Pagano said. “If you want to be the best, you have to play against the best. It should be interesting.”
In the previous meeting this season five days ago between Alonso (10-1) and Sickles, the Ravens won 4-0 with Faedo earning the victory. Sickles, however, did not throw Bacon or its other top pitcher, Shane Haight, who threw five innings Saturday.
On Monday, Bacon, who also plays shortstop, led the way at the plate by going 2-for-3 with two RBIs, a triple and a run scored.
If Bacon should need relief today, expect Sickles to go with Levi Gilcrease, who also threw a few innings Saturday.
Kachler pitches Crest past Chamberlain 7-0
TAMPA — Strawberry Crest didn’t get its offense going until late, but a strong pitching performance by Alex Kachler ensured that the Chargers were never in danger as they defeated Chamberlain 7-0 to move to 2-0 in Pool G.
Jake Ralyea got a two-out RBI in the first inning to put Strawberry Crest up 1-0 early. It stayed like that until the fifth inning as Kachler and Chamberlain starting pitcher Zach White traded scoreless innings. During the second, third and fourth innings only two hits were recorded, one by each team.
Strawberry Crest finally broke through in the fifth inning. Logan Fernandez opened with a double and Matthew Collado followed with a single. After a short flyout, Mark Moclair walked and Brandon Harris had a two-run single.
White left the game with an apparent arm injury. Strawberry Crest would get one more run off a balk and got three insurance runs in the seventh inning.
Kachler went five innings, giving up no runs on just three hits and one walk. Matthew Trzeciak and Ben Welch both pitched one inning and completed the shutout.
Strawberry Crest head coach Eric Beattie was pleased with Kachler’s performance on the mound.
“He did what I expected and went out there and threw strikes. He kept us in the game,” Beattie said.
Williams, Brandon stifle Hillsborough
BRANDON — Matt Stallbaumer knows how lucky he is.
On back-to-back games the Brandon skipper has turned to the left side of his infield for the Eagles’ starting pitcher and the defense barely missed a beat. Monday night, junior Drayden Williams took to the mound, tossing five innings and allowing just one run on two hits as the Eagles got off to a quick start at the plate, topping Hillsborough 8-1.
“Drayden is a huge part of what we want to do defensively,” Stallbaumer said. “The ability we have with three guys to play any position is a unique situation and I know how fortunate I am here at Brandon.”
Backing things up, Saturday night’s starter and regular third baseman Jordan Feist moved to short, while second baseman Austin Sullivan moved to third. Troy Linderman also showed his defensive skills with three nice digs at first and a heads-up play turning a seldom-seen short-to-first-to-short double play in the third inning.
“Our team is full of athletes,” Williams said. “We may be small, but we have the versatility to do things like this that other teams don’t.”
Brandon’s offense scored three runs in the first led by Ryan Anderson’s RBI single and a sac fly from Linderman, as both finished with two RBIs in the win.
Anderson pitched two scoreless innings in relief, with three strikeouts, while Brandon catcher Christian Montesinos was 2-for-2 with a sac fly. Williams improved to 3-0 on the season.
Ryan Romano had a pair of singles in the loss for Hillsborough.
Brandon will face Steinbrenner, both 2-0 in the tournament, for the pool title at 7 tonight, while in the other pool at Brandon High, King and Plant face off at 1 p.m. to decide who automatically advances to the quarterfinals.