TAMPA — Bottom of the ninth, two outs, runners on first and third, score tied Tuesday night: Alonso High junior Sam Davidson stepped into the batter’s box against Sickles’ Levi Gilcrease with the count at one ball, two strikes.
“I’m not going to lie, I was a little bit nervous,” Davidson said. “I was looking for a fastball. I was staying focused.”
Davidson got a change-up and turned on it, ripping it down the left-field line.
“I thought for sure it was going to hook foul,” he said. “But it stayed straight. It stayed fair.”
Game over: Alonso 3, Sickles 2.
Davidson’s shot ended a well-played and well-thrown game, particularly by both teams’ starters: Alonso sophomore Kevin Nunez, who went eight innings, allowing two runs and five hits while striking out three and walking none; and Sickles’ Troy Bacon, who went seven innings, allowing two runs, seven hits while striking out five and walking none.
“(Nunez) has been clutch all season,” Alonso coach Landy Faedo said. “We have a lot of young guys who just come out and try to play the game the way it’s supposed to be played. (Nunez) is one of them.”
For Alonso (11-1), it was another tight victory in the Saladino Tournament. The Ravens’ first two tournament victories were 4-2 over Armwood on Saturday and 4-3 over Robinson on Monday when they scored the winning run in the final inning.
On Tuesday, the Ravens battled back from a 2-1 deficit, scoring the tying run in the sixth when Ryan Mejia singled to score Jose Ciccarello.
Tucker’s blast helps Plant capture Pool B
BRANDON — Plant’s Dennis Braun and King’s Jim Macaluso both knew Tuesday’s Pool B deciding game would be hotly contested as a scorching Panthers team, which entered winners of seven straight, faced Hillsborough County’s lone undefeated team to decide which would advance to the Saladino Tournament quarterfinals.
Plant made the most of three hits as junior Kyle Tucker squared a high-and-inside fastball, sending it 400 feet to center field for a two-run home run and sealing the Panthers’ 3-2 win.
Tucker, a junior who verbally committed to Florida, is one of the country’s top junior prospects for 2015. For Braun, the rankings don’t do his center fielder justice.
“I may be a little biased, but I think he’s the best hitter in the country, and we got to see that today,” Braun said.
The Panthers started the season with a pair of losses but have ripped off eight straight wins.
“We started off slow, but we have started to get our hitting going,” Tucker said. “Getting reps and used to the regular season, we are now really ready to play.”
Plant (8-2) got a solid start from junior Jake Woodford, who earned the win by striking out seven in five innings. The 6-foot-5 right-hander, also one of the country’s top prospects for 2015, is a Florida verbal commitment, as well.
“Our bats have been coming around, and today Tuck picked us up,” Woodford said. “Things are all starting to come together.”
Donnell Taylor cut the deficit to a run for King (11-1) by singling in the sixth and scoring on an error, but the Lions weren’t able to even things, leaving the tying run on second in the final inning.
Jefferson edges Durant to win Pool C
LITHIA — The Jefferson Dragons are on a mission to reach the Saladino Tournament championship game for the fourth consecutive year. They took a giant step in that direction Tuesday, completing a three-game sweep of Pool C with a 2-1 victory against Durant.
Junior right-hander Jonathon Diaz allowed only three hits while going the distance for Jefferson, which defeated Bloomingdale for the crown two years ago. The Dragons lost a rematch last season and bowed to Newsome in the 2011 title game.
Diaz said the event brings out the best in his team.
“We feel good just playing in the Saladino,” he said.
The Dragons scored their runs off left-hander Bryce Gainer in the first inning, capitalizing on three singles — including the first of three by Jose Cuellar — a sacrifice bunt and an error.
“That helped, not having to fight from behind like they had to do,” Jefferson coach Pop Cuesta said. “We had some other opportunities, but we just couldn’t get a hit when we needed it.”
Durant broke through in the fourth inning. Corey Hamm led off with a walk and came around on a passed ball, a bunt and the first hit off Diaz — a one-out single by Jake Sullivan.
Durant had the potential tying run in scoring position in the sixth. Sullivan doubled with one out, but pinch-runner Maclane Bell was called out for leaving too soon after tagging up on a flyout.
“I felt like as soon as the outfielder caught it, I was gone,” Bell said. “It was a split-second call.”
Strawberry Crest uses small ball, takes Pool G
TAMPA — Strawberry Crest used another strong pitching performance and got just enough offense to beat Wharton 3-1 and win Pool G with a 3-0 record.
Wharton had opportunities throughout the game, but Chargers starting pitcher Austin Boatright was able to work out of trouble. The Wildcats had runners in scoring position in the first, third and fourth innings but failed to capitalize.
Jefferey Murray had a RBI single in the third to give Crest a 1-0 lead.
The Chargers used small ball in the fourth to get two more runs. Mark Moclair opened with a double and stole third. Flabio Garcia brought him home on an infield single with two outs. Garcia then stole second and Boatright delivered an RBI single to make it 3-0.