WESLEY CHAPEL — Based on their past two playoff meetings, Brandon and Wesley Chapel match up well. Based on their players' birth certificates, they might match up again in the 2010 postseason.
In a nip-and-tuck duel of timely defense and timely doubles, the Eagles — behind freshman right-hander Chris Toney — escaped central Pasco County on Tuesday with a 2-0 win against a 12-15 Wildcats club that had only one senior on the field at game's end.
"Our kids knew not to come in here looking over Wesley Chapel," said Eagles coach Matt Staullbaumer, whose club needed eight innings to edge the Wildcats in this same Class 5A playoff round last season. "That wasn't going to be a question. The question was going to be, if given our opportunities, what were we going to do?"
Just enough, turns out.
In a crisp contest lasting roughly 95 minutes, the difference were second- and fourth-inning leadoff doubles by junior Roderick Shoulders, who scored on a Spencer Dewey single in the second and sophomore Chase Sparkman's squeeze bunt in the fourth. The Eagles (21-6) collected nine total hits off Wildcats senior Christian Illing, but couldn't put any more runs across.
Meantime, Toney (6-1) made quick work of the Wildcats' lineup, needing only 42 pitches to get through the first five innings before Sparkman came on to notch his eighth save. He allowed only four hits while benefiting from two double plays and one inning-ending pickoff.
"We had talked going in that if (Toney) could get twice through the lineup, the third time we'd like to roll it over," said Staullbaumer, who started only one senior. "And we kind of stuck to it. I'm not going to lie to you, me and my pitching coach both looked at each other, and just stuck with the plan."
Wesley Chapel, which rallied from an 0-6 start to capture the program's first district title, helped keep Toney's pitch count low. Ten 'Cats batters swung and put the ball in play on the first pitch they saw.
"But that just shows you a little bit of nerves; we talked about that at the end," said second-year coach Chuck Yingling, who had sophomores at the first three spots in his batting order. "A lot of times we went out there swinging at a first pitch that was a poor pitch."