TAMPA — With his team's postseason hopes on the line, and facing one of the top-ranked teams in the nation, Alonso righthander Jose Fernandez was tempted to challenge hitters with his fastball Tuesday night.
In the Ravens' Class 6A quarterfinal against Sarasota — two teams that have been ranked No. 1 in the nation during the season — Fernandez could have flexed with his 90-plus heater.
Instead, the junior used finesse to dissect the Sailors, ending their season while putting the Ravens one win closer to defending their state title.
Fernandez threw a three-hitter, holding Sarasota hitless for the final five innings, leading the Ravens to a 5-1 win.
Alonso (23-5) hosts district rival Plant in Friday's region semifinal.
After watching the Sailors' district final Friday against St. Petersburg, Fernandez felt he knew Sarasota's lineup well. And he foiled the Sailors by relying on his breaking ball and changeup. Fernandez, who averaged 1.4 strikeouts an inning, needed only five to end Sarasota's season with their fifth loss in six games after a 21-0 start.
"I noticed that they don't hit curveballs or sliders or changeups," he said. "The first inning, I wanted to throw my fastball because I felt strong, but I made some adjustments. Some days, I throw for strikeouts and some days I need to throw to get outs. Today was a day to get outs."
Sarasota (22-5) took a 1-0 lead in the second on Kevin Schubert's RBI single, but the Ravens rallied for a four-run third. Tyler Ding and Matt Brandy hit back-to-back RBI doubles, followed by two-out hits by Thomas Dorminy and Brandon Johnson.
For Ding, a senior second baseman who was one of five with multiple hits in Alonso's 13-hit attack, it erased the memories of losing to Sarasota his freshman year — and seeing the Sailors win a state title.
"It gives us a big boost," he said. "It sparks us up a little bit."