PINELLAS PARK — Pinellas Park’s unprecedented run through the playoffs ended Friday night with a 12-6 loss to Bradenton Manatee in the Class 5A region final.
Patriots senior Donny Norris, who pitched a complete game, struggled but was not about to give up easily.
“(Manatee’s) a good hitting team and there was nothing I could really do about it,” said Norris, who threw 145 pitches, striking out eight. “I could’ve located my pitches a little bit better.”
Manatee (22-8) unloaded in the top of the first, scoring five times, two off a two-run homer by Trevor Beeman. Pinellas Park (13-15) crossed home plate once on an error in the bottom half. Down 6-1 in the second with the bases loaded, Brandon Grigsby hammered a grand slam off a 1-0 pitch to leftfield.
“I was looking fastball away and he threw me a curve,” said Grigsby, who finished 2-for-3 with four RBIs and a walk. “I thought we’d come back and have a chance.”
The Patriots fought hard, particularly in the fifth. With the bases loaded and one out, Grigsby tossed a snap throw from his catcher position to third base, tagging out Beeman. Norris popped out Mitchell Shreves to first, ending the inning.
Manatee ace Correlle Prime kept Pinellas Park off balance and threw four consecutive scoreless innings after the slam. With the bases loaded and two out in the top of the seventh, Corder Sandberg broke the Patriots’ back with a bases-clearing triple, increasing the Hurricanes’ lead 12-5.
“We told the guys the old cliché, ‘Take one game at a time,’ but we just ran into a good opponent tonight,” Pinellas Park coach Bill Ruttencutter said. “(Manatee) was just better than us. No excuses.”