TAMPA — For eight innings, they exchanged drama with disappointment. Finally, destiny was on Bloomingdale’s side.
Bloomingdale, which had lost three previous meetings against Plant, won 5-3 Tuesday night in Class 8A play to advance to its first region final since 2007. The Panthers were MaxPreps’ 12th-ranked team in the state.
The Bulls had a bevy of heroes. Junior right-hander Daylon Owens had a key start. Senior first baseman Josh Mote made the play of the game in the fifth with his relay home completing a double play. Senior Logan Crouse (7-2), a Florida State commit, knocked in the decisive run with a double off the left-field fence, and pitched the final 3 2/3 innings to complete seventh-year coach Kris Wilken’s signature victory thus far.
“I felt like my other guys, especially Daylon, have the stuff to get (Plant) out and we game planned I thought pretty well for them,” Wilken said. “But you can game plan all you want. It comes down to the kids executing and, my kids I couldn’t be prouder of them. They executed great.”
Crouse’s double with one out in the eighth off Plant’s Stephen Chamblee (6-2) scored Conrado Skepple, who had singled. Mote added an RBI single. They were the first earned runs the Bulls had scored this year against Plant in 29 innings. Bloomingdale parlayed three Panther infield errors into three unearned runs to take a 3-2 fifth-inning lead.
“I didn’t really do anything,” Crouse said. “You need to talk to No. 21.”
That is Owens, the loser in the district finale April 24 against Plant. “I was throwing a lot of breaking balls for strikes, because we knew that was one of (Plant’s) weaknesses,” he said.
Owens left with one out in the fifth and the bases loaded. Crouse faced Plant slugger Kyle Tucker, who lofted a fly to short right. Skepple caught the ball and threw it to cut-off man Mote, whose relay to catcher Jamie Calloway cut down Nick Cerelli by 10 feet and preserved the Bulls’ 3-2 lead.
“I knew that (Cerelli) was going to come home,” Mote said. “It was a perfect throw (by Skepple), so I just turned and threw it home. We been fighting with (Plant) all year and it’s just a huge win for us.”
Chamblee’s two-out RBI single in the seventh extended the game.
On the double play, Plant coach Plant coach Dennis Braun said: “We needed to be aggressive. (Defense) absolutely (cost us the game).”