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DUNEDIN — For Mike Clarkson, routine is everything. Unfortunately, the weather played havoc on the Dunedin pitcher this past week and it caught up to him Friday against Tampa Catholic in the Dunedin Invitational.
Clarkson, who entered the game having given up just one run in six previous starts, allowed four runs over the first two innings as Tampa Catholic built an early lead then hung on for an 8-5 win.
“I know it was probably difficult for the other guys, but I’m so used to doing things a certain way that it had an effect,” said Clarkson, whose record dropped to 6-1 after allowing five runs, four earned, in five innings. “I got ready for this game (originally scheduled for Tuesday) by pitching a bullpen on Sunday and tossing on Monday, but then things went haywire.
“I just didn’t feel right in the bullpen tonight or when I stepped on the mound to start.”
With Clarkson feeling less than perfect, the Crusaders had a game plan for the Dunedin right-hander.
“We wanted to put the ball in play by going the other way with it and I told my guys that if they tried to pull the ball, they would get two at-bats and that’s it for the rest of the tournament,” Crusaders coach Pat Russo said. “They executed the game plan to perfection, or as close to it as you can, because the first inning produced enough runs for (starter Derek Martin).”
Billy Endris and Nick Perez reached on consecutive singles to start the game and scored two batters later when catcher Gio Marrero hit the ball to rightfield.
Martin kept the Falcons at bay until they began a rally in the sixth inning, only Marrero picked off a runner at second and Martin struck out Casey Turgeon to end the threat.
The Crusaders will face Clearwater Central Catholic in the semifinals today at noon at the Englebert Complex. The Marauders were a 11-0 winner over St. Petersburg on Friday.
Countryside, a 6-5 winner over East Lake on Friday, will face Tarpon Springs, a 3-2 winner over St. Petersburg Catholic.