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BRANDON — Logan Crouse needed to escape one final jam, with runners at first and third and Bloomingdale only two outs from victory Thursday.
The 6-foot-5 sophomore admitted to being nervous earlier against Durant and it showed late: Crouse allowed a leadoff single in the seventh inning and later sailed a throw over the glove of the first baseman trying to pick off a runner.
Bulls coach Kris Wilken, sensing the 16-year-old’s building anxiety, decided it was time for a brief meeting.
“My reasons were twofold,” Wilken said. “To ask him what the heck he was thinking trying to pick that guy off — he did that on his own. And two, let’s slow this thing down and go get ’em.”
Crouse settled down after that meeting and struck out the final two batters, preserving a 3-1 win for Bloomingdale in the semifinals of the Saladino Tournament.
Winners of their past eight, the Bulls (9-4) set up a rematch of last year’s title game against defending champion Jefferson on Friday night.
Bloomingdale has rebounded in a big way since losing four straight last month, including defeats to District 8A-7 foes Newsome, Alonso and, of course, Durant.
In their previous matchup Feb. 22, Durant prevailed 3-2 on the strength of a complete-game, three-hit performance by senior southpaw Charles Fowler.
Thursday night was merely a continuation of all those defensively dominated games that have come to define 8A-7 play, particularly the burgeoning rivalry between Bloomingdale and Durant.
The scores of their past six games are 3-2, 3-2, 3-2, 2-0, 3-2, 3-1, with Bloomingdale winning four.
“This is what our district looks like,” Durant coach Butch Valdes said.
The Bulls pulled out this victory by scoring twice on wild pitches by Durant junior right-hander Ryan Barfield then holding the Cougars (10-3) scoreless when they twice placed runners at third.
Bulls pinch-runner Doug Sandberg broke a 1-all tie in the bottom of the fourth by scoring on Barfield’s first wild pitch. An inning later, Bulls rightfielder Conrado Skepple also scored on a passed ball with two out and the bases loaded.
That gave Crouse enough cushion, though he narrowly averted his own trouble.
Crouse first made it out of a two-out, bases-loaded jam in the third, striking out Fowler to end the inning.
In the seventh inning, Crouse gave up a leadoff single to Durant sophomore Cade Kelley and made a bad throw to first while trying to pick him off. Kelley made it to second as the Bulls scrambled to get to the ball.
Durant junior Corey Hamm then singled to right, moving Kelley to third.
But Crouse settled down long enough to strike out the final two batters, especially important since Durant star Tyler Danish — who singled in his previous at-bat and was walked twice, once intentionally — was up next.
“I was nervous … because well, it’s the Saladino Tournament and it’s the semifinals,” Crouse said. “We’re definitely trying to win this thing and let people know we’re still Bloomingdale and we’re still dominant.”