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FORT MYERS — What a difference a year makes.
Last season, Tampa Catholic swaggered into Bishop Verot’s Duane Swanson Field for the Class 3A region final and left with a 9-7 victory. On Friday, however, the host Vikings (28-4) sent 11 batters to the plate in the first inning, scoring seven runs en route to a 12-1, five-inning win.
“We had a game plan for how to plays these guys, but we didn’t follow the plan,” Crusaders coach Pat Russo said. “We can’t make errors, we can’t walk people and we can’t let their big guys beat us. Tonight we made three errors and walked five guys and gave up three home runs.”
Tampa Catholic (14-15) started junior right-hander Derek Martin, who flummoxed Bishop Verot last season. On Friday, Martin faced nine batters in the first inning, retiring just one and allowing all seven runs before being pulled.
Bishop Verot righty Hudson Boyd delivered the biggest blow in the inning. The 6-foot-2 senior blasted a 2-0 fastball over the leftfield wall for a grand slam that gave the Vikings a 5-0 lead.
“Some of the guys were talking about how we never score many runs when Hud’s pitching,” said Bishop Verot coach Tom LoSauro of Boyd, who entered the game with a 0.44 ERA. “Tonight he said forget about it guys, I’m going to get the party started myself.”
Senior outfielder Billy Endris drove in TC’s lone run with an RBI single in the fourth inning.
Russo said he was proud of how his team rebounded after a shaky start to reach the region final.
“But if we came out the way we were supposed to play, this game would have looked a lot different,” he said.