By BRYAN BURNS
Times Staff Writer
DUNEDIN — Comeback kids, cardiac kids, whatever you want to call them, the Palm Harbor University Hurricanes are advancing to the region tournament for the first time since 2005.
For the second straight day, Palm Harbor University erased a deficit to post a come-from-behind victory. Tuesday against Tarpon Springs, the Hurricanes trailed 6-3 before scoring four in the sixth inning to win 9-7. Facing Clearwater, the No. 2 seed in the 5A-9 district tournament, PHU fell behind early 4-1, cut the deficit to 4-3 in the fifth and scored two in the top of the seventh to win 5-4.
"These last two games we've shown a lot of resilience," PHU coach Jeremy Albrecht said. "I'm excited for them; we're a real young team."
PHU third baseman Alex Delmonte hit his second triple of the game with a runner on base in the fourth inning to cut Clearwater's lead to 4-2. Kyle Westwood followed with a sacrifice fly to make it 4-3.
In the seventh inning, the Hurricanes (16-11) loaded the bases against Clearwater starter Tim Younger with one out, prompting the Tornadoes (17-9) to call on Craig Goodman from the bullpen. Goodman gave up an RBI single to Craig Roepke that tied the game. After a foul out, Anthony Varner singled home the winning run with two outs, giving the Hurricanes six wins in their past seven games, all by two runs or fewer.
"We have a very young team; we have a small group of seniors," Albrecht said. "As the season's gone on, we've really grown as a group. As we've been playing — especially this back half of the season — we've been playing some really good baseball."
The Hurricanes advance to Friday's final to play top-seeded Dunedin, a 9-0 winner in the late semifinal over East Lake.
Dunedin starter Max Kreuter was nearly flawless in working six scoreless innings. The senior allowed just one hit while striking out seven to keep East Lake batters guessing.
Dunedin (19-5) scored six times in the second inning, effectively putting the game out of reach. In that inning, Mike Kumbat hit an RBI double and Jacob Rogers drilled the first offering from East Lake reliever Brian Johnson over the rightfield fence for a three-run home run.