TAMPA — Since winning its first Saladino Tournament in a decade, Plant lost three of its next four games and came into a district matchup with Alonso at .500 since hoisting the trophy.
It was a problem for the Panthers, who previously owned a 12-game win streak, but it was an expected one.
“It was a little Saladino slump, which I think is common,” right-hander Steven Chamblee said.
Against the Ravens on Tuesday, though, the Panthers wasted no time hitting their way out of it and capitalizing on Alonso mistakes to beat the Ravens 11-0 and remain atop the 8A-7 district standings.
After a scoreless first, Plant (15-5) took advantage of a couple errors in the second inning to score its first run. With the help of a Carter Leslie RBI double, Plant — which had three hits and a walk in the frame —pushed four more across to take a 5-0 lead.
Alonso had two of its four hits in the bottom of the inning, but the Panther defense stepped up to strand runners at second and third. The Ravens (16-3) wouldn’t have another runner in scoring position all night.
“We always know it’s going to be a dogfight with them,” Chamblee said of the Ravens, who came into the game with just two losses, both to Plant. “I think we’ve done a good job of coming out, swinging the bats early, getting that big inning early, destroying their confidence early and disabling them from getting back in the game.”
The Panthers had just one hit in the next three innings after taking their early lead, but Alonso began to falter again in the sixth when an error and two singles loaded the bases. With hard-hitting Kyle Tucker on deck, Alonso coach Landy Faedo replaced starting pitcher Kevin Nunez — who gave up seven hits and struck out two in five innings — with Spencer Bodanza.
The left-hander threw a pair of sliders to the county’s home run leader before tossing a two-seam fastball that Tucker sent up and over the centerfield fence for his second grand slam of the season.
“It was a good pitch,” Tucker said, “but I just got a hold of it.”
Aiding the Panthers and their busy bats was a shutout outing from Chamblee, who came in with a 0.93 ERA. The senior gave up four hits and struck out four in seven innings.
But perhaps greater than any individual performance was what a win against the Ravens meant to the Panthers. The slump was real, coach Dennis Braun said, but Tuesday proved that a slump doesn’t have to be a bad thing.
“It was a blessing,” Braun said, “because it got us back to work.”