TAMPA — This time, there was no blown lead.
Just a blowout.
Gaither jumped on Leto early Friday and stayed on its 5A-9 rival, as the Cowboys pummeled the Falcons 13-1 and clinched the No. 2 seed in next week’s district tournament. The game was stopped after five innings by the 10-run mercy rule.
The Cowboys scored two in the first, four in the second, one in the third and six in the fourth. Oscar Mercado and Cody Robinson each had three hits for the Cowboys (12-6, 9-3), while senior right-hander Robert Johnson pitched a one-hitter, struck out six and retired 12 of the last 13 batters he faced to improve to 6-0. Leto’s lone run was unearned.
The game was nothing like the March 11 meeting at Leto when the Cowboys stormed back from a 5-0 deficit in the seventh to win a 7-5 thriller.
“The last time, I think we just did a lot of things wrong early,” Gaither coach Frank Permuy said. “We probably had five walks, two hits batsmen, some passed balls and wild pitches — but we made a tremendous comeback.”
This time the Falcons (10-10, 7-5) made all the early mistakes, including two errors, three wild pitches, a passed ball and catcher’s interference in the second inning alone, allowing the Cowboys to take a 6-1 lead.
Behind five hits, Gaither sent 10 batters to the plate in its six-run fourth, rapping a trio of RBI doubles by Robinson, Alejandro Brunet and Edward Pastrana against a pair of struggling Falcons pitchers. Leto also made four errors.
“We tried to get some guys in there who haven’t played much this season,” said Leto coach J.J. Pizzio, whose team was locked into the No. 3 district tournament seed regardless of Friday’s outcome. “They got to see how good they’re going to have to get.”