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PINELLAS PARK — In the home half of the ninth Tyree Graves drove in the winning run, lifting Pinellas Park over Tarpon Springs 4-3 Tuesday in the 5A region quarterfinal.
Pinellas Park (12-14) jumped out in front early, scoring three runs in the bottom of the first, including two off a double by winning pitcher Donny Norris. The Spongers (18-12) then responded with a two-out run in the top of the second.
The Patriots’ lead stood until the sixth, when Anthony Bariso hit a two-run home run to center. In the bottom of the inning, Spongers starting pitcher Danny Robison was lifted for Caleb Koulianos.
After Koulianos got Nick Mason to ground out in the ninth, Joe Vaskovsky doubled to right, putting the winning run in scoring position.
That brought up Graves, who had earlier reached base on a fielder’s choice and an error. With the count 2-and-2, Graves rapped a Koulianos pitch into leftfield.
Norris, who pitched a complete game for the hard-earned win, persevered despite an injury to his throwing hand. In the sixth, the ball hit Norris’ fingers as he laid down a bunt.
“My breaking pitch wasn’t working as well,” Norris said. “So I had to stick to fastballs and changeups.”
By the ninth inning Norris had thrown about 130 pitches, but Patriots coach Bill Ruttencutter stuck with him.
“He’s been our workhorse the last two years,” Ruttencutter said. “He’s helped us get to this point.”
Norris wasn’t worried about his ability to continue, and the senior let his coach know as much.
“I told him there’s no way you’re taking me out of this game.”