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CLEARWATER — On the brink of letting its Class 3A, District 10 semifinal game against Berkeley Prep get out of control, Clearwater Central Catholic pushed aside questions about its lack of offensive firepower and the pressures of defending a title by doing something it does not always do well.
The Marauders hammered somebody with their bats.
Clearwater Central Catholic could not have hit the ball harder Tuesday night if it had it on a golf tee. Jeff Campbell hit a home run and Benny Mendizabal hit a two-run blast as the Marauders erased a 3-0 deficit in the first two innings to win 7-3.
In the early game, Tampa Catholic relied on the pitching of Derek Martin, who allowed three hits and struck out four in six innings against the Barons (15-12).
Early on, it appeared as if CCC would not be able to defend its title. The Marauders fell behind as the Buccaneers scored once in the top of the first inning and twice more in the second.
Down 3-0, the Marauders rallied to tie the score in the bottom of the second. They did it by going deep, something they had trouble doing all year. The Marauders had just six homers on the season entering Tuesday’s game.
Campbell hit his team-leading third home run of the season to make it 3-1. Seth Paitsel hit a double and Mendizabal followed two batters later with his first home run of the season.
“We try to push runs across with a base hit or getting one into the gap,” CCC coach Todd Vaughan said. “For us to count on blasts, that’s just not going to happen.”
The Marauders broke open the game in the third inning, scoring four runs off four hits and taking advantage of two batters hit by pitches.
The run support help settle down Campbell, who shut down Berkeley Prep down the rest of the way for his fifth win of the season.
“We battled back at the plate,” Campbell said. “We got some runs and we were able to go from there.”
CCC (17-9) will face Tampa Catholic in the championship game Thursday in a rematch of last year’s final that the Marauders won.
The Crusaders (12-12) advanced with a 4-0 victory over St. Petersburg Catholic.