TAMPA — Steinbrenner third baseman Gerald Bautista entered his senior season with a signature committing him to Florida and the billing as one of the area’s top prospects. With that in the background, he came out and tried too hard in the beginning, leading him into a slump.
But after working with his father — Danny Bautista, who had an 11-year major-league baseball career — on his mechanics and his mind-set, the younger Bautista finally feels like he can relax.
And the change in approach paid off Friday against Gaither, as he went 3-for-4 with three RBIs in Steinbrenner’s 6-4 win. It gave the Warriors (11-6, 6-1) prime positioning for the No. 1 seed in the upcoming Class 7A, District 9 tournament. And it gave Bautista his second multi-hit game on the season.
“He had a breakout game, hopefully,” Warriors coach John Crumbley said.
“Right now, I’m just letting it click,” Bautista said. “Jut stay relaxed, make contact, put the ball in play and let it travel. Tonight, it was perfect.”
After Stone Ramsey set the tone for the Warriors by taking the first pitch of the game over the rightfield fence, Bautista gave Steinbrenner a 2-0 edge in the third with an RBI infield single, scoring Ramsey. He drove in the next run for the Warriors as well, a fifth-inning single to leftfield.
Fellow senior Chris Williams, who signed with Saint Leo, overcame flu-like symptoms to pitch six efficient innings, giving up four hits and one run (on a Randy Oliva home run) while walking three and striking out four on 85 pitches.
“I had better stuff than I thought I would, I was pleasantly surprised and like, ‘Hey, I can compete now.’ ”
Gaither (10-7, 3-4) made a late push with two out in the seventh, as three straight hits capped by an Oscar Mercado double brought the Cowboys within two. It was too little, too late, though, as Bautista retired the final batter to preserve the win.