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Baseball: Stellar D feeds Clearwater Central Catholic offense

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Tue. April 8, 2014 | Chuck Frye

CLEARWATER — A little bit of adrenaline can go a long, long way.

Just ask Zuriel Collins, who provided the key hit of the night that allowed Clearwater Central Catholic to hold off feisty Calvary Christian 4-2 Tuesday and remain undefeated at 19-0.

With the game knotted at 2 in the fifth inning, the host Warriors (15-5) presented a one-out threat as singles from Johnnie Schneider, Graham Hoffman and Ray Hansen loaded the bases.

But Collins did his utmost to preserve the deadlock.

When Hoffman’s shallow base hit skipped past leftfielder Andrew Murphy, the junior hustled and snagged the ball quickly to hold the runners at first and second. Two batters later, starter and complete-game winner Tyler Simmons (five hits, two strikeouts, one walk) induced a grounder that Collins’ perfect pivot turned into a big double play.

“That really lifted me up to the next level,” Collins said. “After that double play, I was fired up.”

And when he stepped to the plate in the top of the sixth with speedy pinch-runner Jeff Smith at second, he straightened out reliever Jake Rothwell’s 3-2 curveball and planted it in the left-centerfield gap for an RBI triple. Collins later scored on Jake Wight’s second hit of the game, an infield single.

“With two strikes, you look fastball and adjust for the curve,” Collins said, “I hit it pretty solid, on the barrel.”

Collins’ efforts rewarded Simmons, who blanked the Warriors after a reversed first-inning call took away a third out and led to a Grant McDaniel two-run homer over the rightfield fence.

“I wanted to pound the zone and really mix it up,” Simmons said after his 81-pitch night. “My off-speed pitch was getting a lot of ground balls. It’s my go-to pitch.”

Wight, a third-string first baseman earning a rare start from coach Todd Vaughan, added a defensive gem to his solid offense. He snared McDaniel’s hard one-hopper down the foul line for a key leadoff out in the sixth inning.

“He’s been a decent stick off the bench and I thought this would be a good opportunity for him,” Vaughan said. “He came through big time.”

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