PINELLAS PARK — Largo starter Mike LaGrange stood on the mound in the fifth inning holding a 15-1 lead over Northeast and was determined not to let either of the two runners on base score. With only one more out to record for a mercy-rule win and the game well in hand, the stubbornness defined the character makeup of LaGrange.
The Packers’ left-hander ended up inducing a groundout to short to cap a jaw-dropping upset over the No. 1-seeded Vikings for the second straight year in the Class 5A, District 12 semifinals.
Largo moves on to face Pinellas Park in a rematch of last season’s district final after the Patriots rolled over second-seeded Boca Ciega 9-0 Wednesday.
“I just wanted to prove to them that we it didn’t matter if the score was 2-1 or 15-1, we could beat them in either fashion,” said LaGrange, who allowed an unearned run on three hits and two walks while striking out eight.
“I had a game plan to attack them with first-pitch strikes and in on the hands. After that, it was all about us keeping the pressure on at the plate.”
Northeast played a hand in Largo’s offensive explosion in the fourth inning, in which the Packers (10-13) batted around the order in putting across six runs, four unearned.
The inning was highlighted by the fact that the first three batters in the frame reached on an error with one run scored before Largo actually got on base via a hit, courtesy of George Koceja’s two-run double.
Largo then had an eight-run fifth inning that was more of a declaration than anything else as LaGrange had an RBI triple and Matt Piatt had a grand slam.
“We kind of wanted to show them that the last inning wasn’t a fluke and we could hit off their pitching,” LaGrange said.
In the earlier game, Donny Norris had 14 strikeouts in Pinellas Park’s victory over Boca Ciega. The right-hander surrendered two hits in a complete-game shutout. Norris also was big at the plate with a 3-for-4 performance and one RBI.
Ryan Reinoso went 1-for-3 with a homer and three runs scored while Zach McIntyre had a three-run homer, his first career home run.