MORE from our HomeTeam writers.
CLEARWATER — Tuesday’s game was more Arena League Football than baseball. There were plenty of hits — and runs — as the players circled the bases as if it were kids’ night.
St. Petersburg and Clearwater combined for 26 hits and 15 runs. There also were a combined nine walks and two balks. The offensive onslaught took its toll with each team going through three pitchers.
The Tornadoes did most of their damage early, scoring all eight of their runs in the first four innings. It was just enough as Clearwater held off a late rally for an 8-7 victory.
And yet while the offenses put on a show, it was the glove work of Tornadoes third baseman Kyle Amaral that might have been the difference.
Amaral did not just make spectacular plays on sure base hits. The senior smothered the ball.
There was a fly ball he snagged before running back to third to make a tag on a double play. There was a smash that he went to his knees to grab and throw out a runner at first. And there was a bunt he scooped barehanded and threw to first.
“I had a lot of balls that were hit hard my way,” Amaral said. “That just comes with the position. I was just able to react well and make some plays.”
Amaral did not play last year because of a conflict with his work schedule.
“Kyle has been coming around this season,” Clearwater coach Ken Clawson said. “He’s made some plays for us before, but he’s never had a night where he’s had that many hit to him and made that many big plays. That saved us some runs.”
The Tornadoes (2-3) were strong at the top of their order with three of their first four hitters — Clay Gilman, Reed Avers and Colin Lonsberry — each getting two hits. Clearwater’s big innings came in the first and third with three runs each.
St. Petersburg’s Aaron Haughton went 2-for-3 with three RBIs. His big hit was a two-run homer in the first.
Down 8-4 through four, the Green Devils rallied with one run in the fifth inning and two more in the sixth. In the seventh, Amaral made his final big play and groundout off a sacrifice bunt. Two of the next three batters flew out to end the game.