BRANDON — If appearances are deceiving, Jefferson junior Jimmy Herget has been the master of illusion at the Saladino Tournament.
The Dragons’ lanky 6-foot-3 right-hander is all arms and legs, wearing baggy pants two sizes too big and eyeglasses, all on a frame that can’t be more than 150 pounds dripping wet.
With his herky-jerky motion, Herget delivers the ball from a mixture of arm slots and at variety of speeds.
But his performance on the mound and at the plate Friday put Jefferson in today’s Saladino Tournament semifinal with a resounding 10-1 win over Durant.
Herget threw a complete-game four-hitter, striking out 11 Cougars hitters. He also hit a pair of home runs out of stingy Don Powell Field to nearly the same spot in left-centerfield to put the game away — a three-run shot in the sixth and a two-bomb in the seventh.
“He had a lot more to offer than what it would appear on the mound,” Durant coach Butch Valdes said. “He kept my boys off balance all day.”
For Herget (4-0), it was his fourth double-digit strikeout performance of the season.
“He’s been like that all year for us,” said Jefferson coach Pop Cuesta, who said Herget reached 89 mph on the radar gun.
The Dragons (10-1) will face defending Saladino champ Alonso — which needed a seventh-inning rally to beat Brandon 2-1 in the night’s final quarterfinal — in tonight’s second semifinal at 7. The game will be a rematch of last year’s semifinal.
Herget is no stranger to success in the Saladino tournament. In last year’s Saladino quarterfinals, he threw a complete-game one-hitter to beat Hillsborough.
“It’s just a great atmosphere,” said Herget, a USF commit. “All the people coming out. It pumps you up a little bit.”
Jefferson seniors Einar Muniz and Steven Negron also had multiple hits against Durant (7-4).
Alonso (7-3) scored two in the top of the seventh inning on run-scoring hits from No. 7 hitter Mike Fahrman and No. 9 hitter Tommy Lynch.
“Early on the way it was looking I (said), the bottom half of the lineup is going to have to win it for us today. You always expect the top of the lineup to be the guys that are going to get the runs in, and then you get in a game like this where you’re facing a great pitcher and he knows what he’s doing and you’re handcuffed.”
In a battle of seasoned Saladino starters — Alonso’s Jose Fernandez and Brandon’s Chase Sparkman — runs were at a premium.
Brandon (6-4) scored the game’s first run in the bottom of the sixth on a squeeze bunt down the first-base line by Chris Toney off Fernandez, who didn’t allow a hit until the fifth inning and struck out 11.
Sparkman was equally dominating, striking out 10 and retiring 14 of 15 batters during one stretch over the middle innings.
“I’ve never been so proud of a pitcher in all my life to come out inning for inning and match that guy,” Brandon coach Matt Stallbaumer said. “It was fun just to watch our kid compete against one of the best pitchers in the nation.”