LUTZ — After Steinbrenner started off third inning with a pop out to centerfield, coach John Crumbley could no longer contain his frustration with the Warriors’ punchless offense.
“Could somebody hit a ball hard here tonight, please?” he bellowed to no one in particular.
Cole Gordon overheard his coach, and felt the building tension in Steinbrenner’s dugout.
And when he came to the plate an inning later, Gordon answered Crumbley’s plaintive request.
Gordon sent a waist-high fastball over the fence to lead off the fourth, the winning score in the Warriors’ 1-0 victory over Gaither on Thursday night.
“I was waiting for a fastball … and I got lucky and caught one,” said the 6-foot-5, 230-pound Gordon, who hit his fifth homer of the season — tying him for the county lead.
The Warriors (14-1) needed Gordon’s timely swing on a night when Gaither right-hander Hunter Henderson virtually silenced an offense that averages eight runs per game.
It was Steinbrenner’s lowest-scoring game of the season, other than a 4-1 loss to Strawberry Crest in the Saladino Tournament more than two weeks ago.
Immediately after Crumbley’s exasperated cry for offense in the third, Warriors third baseman Danny Rodriguez responded with a single and leftfielder Alex Hanson followed with a double that placed runners on second and third.
But Henderson ended the scoring threat with a strikeout and then a groundout that left the game in a scoreless tie through three.
“We’re better than that,” Crumbley said. “But it’s a credit to Henderson that he could keep us off-balance like that tonight.”
Gordon’s leadoff homer in the next inning proved to be the difference.
“It’s hard for a pitcher to lose a game like that,” Gaither coach Frank Permuy said. “That’s probably one of the best games he’s thrown all year. But we squandered some opportunities.”
Gideon Dunn got the win for the Warriors, who extended their lead in District 7A-9 to 1 1/2 games over Gaither (9-7).
Dunn allowed three hits in five innings, with four strikeouts and three walks. The 6-foot-3 junior was every bit as dominating — if not more so — than Henderson in his sixth victory of the year.
He also benefited from a hitless two-inning save from Logan LaPace and several sensational defensive plays, which included catcher Jesse Haney twice throwing out runners trying to steal second.
“It’s good to know that even if I’m struggling, that my teammates will be there to pick me up,” Dunn said.
Crumbley also said after the game that LaPace will be the team’s second starter after senior lefty Nick Sucarichi left the team for the season. The coach declined to go into detail about Sucarichi’s departure.
Sucarichi pitched a five-inning no-hitter in the Warriors’ first game against Gaither, an 11-0 win March 1.