East Lake coach Dan Genna is an advocate of small ball, as unglamorous as that term may be.
The Eagles score runs by doing the little things — bunting, stealing, hitting-and-running, advancing runners with productive outs — all those little things that contribute to the manufacturing of runs as opposed to hitters swinging for the fences.
Fans of the long ball might not be in love with East Lake. After all, the Eagles have just four home runs, three from Morgan Cowan. Instead of ripping the nets off the batting cages, East Lake players bunt.
“We really don’t have a lot of power,” Genna said. “So we go to small ball at times. And the team has really been committed to working on the things we’re not very good at. We’re now hitting behind runners. And we have good hitters who can rely on the bunt.”
Postseason baseball differs from the regular season: lower-scoring games require more one-run stratagems, more bunts and steals and small ball.
That plays right into what the Eagles do best.
East Lake, which graduated 12 players, got hot late in the season, winning eight of their last nine games to advance to tonight’s region semifinals for the first time since 2002.
But the Eagles are not the only county team left that knows how to manufacture runs.
Shorecrest played in last year’s Class 2A state final by perfecting the art of small. Clearwater Central Catholic and Pinellas Park are not known for having big sticks and can stay in close games and move runs across.
All four teams have good pitching, too.
Genna, though, says his team does not have to rely exclusively on a small-ball approach.
“It’s a very good hitting team,” Genna said. “The small ball here is a different version. We have guys that can get a big base hit. We’re able to create a little bit.”
Baseball region semifinals
When: Friday at 7
At stake: Winners advance to the region finals May 13.
Class 5A, East Lake (19-8) at Pinellas Park (9-14): The teams were supposed to play in the regular season, but the game was rained out. Austin Bembnowski will start for the Eagles. He could get plenty of support from an offense that has scored 10 or more runs in three of its past four games.
Class 3A, Tampa Catholic (12-14) at Clearwater Central Catholic (19-9): This is the meeting of the season between both teams. The Crusaders won the first; the Marauders have won the past three, including last week’s district final. Three of the four meetings have been decided by one run.
Class 2A, Community School of Naples (17-10) at Shorecrest (21-10): The Chargers survived their first test on the road with a win over Fort Myers Evangelical Christian on Tuesday. Pitching has always been Shorecrest’s strength but the hitting is starting to come around as well.