TAMPA — Strawberry Crest, having no district or Saladino Tournament titles to speak of, is tired of looking at blank walls.
But with a 3-1 win against Wharton on Tuesday, which lifted the Chargers out of Saladino Tournament pool play and earned them a quarterfinal berth, Strawberry Crest is one step closer to bringing the sign of a championship to Dover.
“We want to win it,” coach Eric Beattie said. “It’d be nice to put a banner up this year.”
Beattie knows that Strawberry Crest, which outscored its first three Saladino Tournament opponents 18-1, has a strong defense to thank for its tournament survival. Tuesday’s starter, Austin Boatright, might not have been at the top of his game, but that didn’t matter.
“Boatright didn’t have his best stuff today, but Boatright is a competitor,” Beattie said. “He finds a way to keep us in the game, whether he’s sharp or whether he’s not.”
Boatright gave up back-to-back singles in the first inning and another in the second, but both times he and the defense got the Chargers out of the jams without allowing runners to score.
The Wildcats and Chargers were locked in a stalemate after two innings, until rightfielder Flabio Garcia singled in the third, and Jeff Murray batted him in with a single of his own later in the frame.
In the next inning, Garcia broke it open again with an RBI double, scoring the first of Strawberry Crest’s two runs in the fourth.
“The pitcher was throwing good; I just saw the ball good,” Garcia said. “…I got a hold of a curveball and just ran it out.”
Tristan Deluna, who reached on a walk, scored Wharton’s only run on a Strawberry Crest error in the seventh inning. But just as it had throughout the tournament, the Chargers’ defense came through in the clutch to strand a Wildcat runner and end the game.
The Chargers came close to making its tournament championship dreams come true in last year’s Saladino, but they fell to Jefferson in the semifinals. That disappointment, Garcia said, hasn’t left the Chargers’ minds.
“It was tough. Jefferson’s always a good team no matter what. They have the tradition over there,” Garcia said. “But we’re going to build one here.”
And as far as Garcia is concerned, this year’s Saladino Tournament is a good place to start.
Strawberry Crest 3, Wharton 1
Chamberlain 20, Middleton 5
Pitchers of the day
Senior Austin Boatright tossed five scoreless innings for the Chargers, striking out four and giving up three hits. He also had an RBI single in the fourth inning. …Chamberlain’s Jordan Pendergrass pitched three innings, giving up two singles and striking out six before moving to play rightfield.
Hitters of the day
Strawberry Crest rightfielder Flabio Garcia went 2-for-3 against Wharton, recording a double in the second inning and an RBI single in the third. …Chamberlain first baseman Allan Radice had RBI singles in the first and second innings to lead the Chiefs at the plate. Kyle Rochelle hit a two-out, home run to leftfield in the fourth to give the Chiefs a 14-2 lead.
Did you know?
Darren Gooden, son of four-time MLB all-star and three-time World Series champion Dwight Gooden, pitches for Wharton. Gooden threw one inning of relief Tuesday, giving up one hit and striking out one.
“They’re out there throwing strikes, doing what they can. I’m out in the field doing what I can to help them. They’re keeping us in every game.” — Garcia on the Strawberry Crest pitchers