MORE from our HomeTeam writers.
DUNEDIN — Against any other team, he doesn’t try to throw the ball hard enough to knock over a tree.
Against any other team, he doesn’t try to make every pitch perfect.
Against any other team, he probably just does what he has the past three seasons, and that’s dominate.
But Wednesday night at the Englebert Complex against Dunedin, Taylor Layner tried to be great, when he really doesn’t need to try that hard.
“Taylor was a little excited,” said Osceola coach Stefan Futch.
Osceola’s little lefty, a 5-foot-8 senior firebrand with a 90 mph fastball who can throw with the best of them and has an FSU scholarship and a handful of interested pro scouts to prove it, could not overcome, well, Taylor Layner.
Futch was worried about Dunedin, a team he says has notoriously good first and second innings, starting fast, but he never thought his starting pitcher would help it do it.
In the first inning, Layner walked three batters — two with the bases loaded — and hit another (bases also loaded).
He almost pulled off one of his signature escapes, where he loads the bases and goes 3-and-0 on a hitter before striking out the side.
But he fell one strikeout short of escaping without any damage, and ended up throwing 38 pitches in all, very few of them any good.
In the second inning, he threw 30 more, most of them balls again.
And that was pretty much his night: six runs allowed, and just two hits, an infield chopper and a blooper to right-center.
Layner, who took off afterward in a hurry, is much better than he showed against Dunedin, whose mystique may have done more damage to Layner’s ERA than its aluminum bats.
But he is a fierce competitor who was eager — maybe too eager — to get the ball against Dunedin. He’ll be even more eager to get it next week against either Lakewood or Seminole, to erase Wednesday’s performance.
Chances are, we won’t see anything close to a repeat.
Dunedin’s Aaron Chesson, however, is counting on one.
He was typical Dunedin on Wednesday night — calm, cool, consistent.
In four innings of work, the sophomore right-hander gave up no runs, two hits and struck out six.
A reliever making his second start, he smiled coyly before suggesting he may be making more starts in the future.
“Trying to lock down that No. 3 starter’s spot,” the 16-year-old said.
In his first start, against St. Petersburg Catholic, he didn’t quite make it to four innings, but he struck out six.
He didn’t win that game, though.
This one, he did.
“My first,” he said.
And probably not his last.
Thanks to a strong start by Chesson, the Falcons picked up a back-to-back-nights sweep of Seminole and Osceola and showed, once again, they lead the county’s arms race and are at this moment the team to beat.
For Osceola, it was the Warriors’ first loss of the season.
It was a chance to make a statement after eight wins, against average competition, to prove how good they are.
Like their best player, the Warriors will have to wait another week to do so.