VALRICO — Preparing to face Bloomingdale right-hander Logan Crouse — one of Hillsborough County’s best pitchers — Alonso coach Landy Faedo knew his team had to play aggressively. So prior to Tuesday’s game against the district rival, the 12th-year coach instructed his Ravens to chase after their offensive opportunities.
“He wants us to get on the pitcher, and he wants us to put pressure on the defense,” second baseman Jose Ciccarello said.
Against Bloomingdale, the Ravens did exactly that.
Crouse struck out eight in six innings of work and held Alonso hitless through the first two frames, but the Ravens capitalized on aggressive base running and Bulls’ throwing errors to take a lead in the third inning, eventually winning 3-1.
Ciccarello and centerfielder Ryan Mejia recorded the first hits of the night for Alonso (7-1, 4-1) in the third inning, and the pair scored soon after as Mejia attempted to steal a base. But a Bloomingdale throwing error gave the Ravens enough time to make it home.
Ciccarello, who finished 2-for-4, reached base later in the game due to another Bloomingdale (4-4, 2-3) error, and the Ravens — who had stolen just six bases in seven games prior to Tuesday’s matchup — stole three times against the Bulls.
Playing with a 2-0 lead may have given them confidence at the plate, but despite Bloomingdale’s habit of missing the mark with its throws Tuesday, Faedo said that didn’t factor into his team’s aggressive base running. That, he said, was part of the plan from the start.
“You don’t think they’re going to make throws like that, you just hope you can steal them clean and get good jumps,” he said. “If something like that happens, it’s just a bonus for us.”
Alonso’s momentum carried over to the defensive side, as right-hander Kevin Nunez allowed three hits and walked one while pitching a complete game. The Ravens also turned double plays in the third and fifth innings.
Alonso ace Alex Faedo, who is expected to make his first start on the mound Thursday in the Ravens’ game against Sickles, played first base and had an RBI in the top of the seventh to extend Alonso’s lead even more.
Shortstop Austin James batted in a run of his own, the first and only for Bloomingdale, in the bottom of the frame, but it wasn’t be enough for the comeback. Nunez, who had been efficient through the first six innings, pitched nearly a full count against the last two batters, but he struck out the last Bull he faced to end the game.
After winning the state championship in 2011, Alonso has missed the playoffs since, losing in the district semifinals the past two years. But after a 4-1 start in tough 8A-7 play, Mejia can only hope that’s a good sign for things to come.
“We want to face the best of the best. We want to face the best competition at all times,” he said. “We’re ready for that.”