BRANDON — Plant’s hits came in bunches Thursday.
There were shots to the gaps, blasts off the wall and bleeders that found grass. For a while, it seemed as if the Panthers might not make an out, or maybe coach Dennis Braun’s arm might cramp from waving runners home.
“Nope, I never get tired of that,” Braun joked.
Plant hammered out 11 hits and Stephen Chamblee took care of the rest on the mound as the Panthers reached tonight’s Saladino Tournament final with a 14-1 win against Alonso in a game shortened to five innings due to the run rule.
“We get pumped up when we string a few hits together,” Chamblee said. “Hitting is contagious.”
Plant’s bats have been lethal throughout the week. The 10-2 Panthers, who defeated Leto 9-1 to reach Thursday’s semifinal, have outscored the opposition 46-6 in the tournament. Plant has handed the Ravens (12-2) both of their losses this season.
“We did a nice job swinging the bats, which we didn’t do earlier in the year,” Braun said. “It was nice, but we know we’re going to be in more battles with (Alonso) down the road.”
Plant, which last captured the Saladino Tournament in 2004, took a 3-0 lead in the fourth then sent 15 batters to the plate in the fifth. Eight of the nine hitters in that inning scored, with three Panthers crossing the plate twice.
Matt Vaka and Max Wadsworth had a pair of hits for the Plant and every starter recorded at least one.
“I feel like we all bounce off each other when we get things going like that,” Vaka said. “We’re playing well as a team.”
Meanwhile, Chamblee settled down after giving up a leadoff double. The senior right-hander scattered four hits and struck out three in five innings. Wyatt Reid’s RBI single with two outs in the final inning spoiled the shutout.
“I struggled a little with my breaking ball early,” Chamblee said. “But in the end, it all worked out.”
The Panthers will go for their fourth Saladino title tonight when they face Jefferson.
“I’ve never been to (a Saladino final), and I know most kids are happy to go to on spring break at the beach,” Vaka said. “But we want to go and play baseball, so we’re excited.”