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Baseball: Alonso stumbles for first loss

TAMPA — By dusk Tuesday, no fewer than 10 big-league scouts had arrived at Alonso equipped with sleek, state-of-the-art radar guns.

They should've brought tape measures instead.

The projected pitching duel between Mitchell left-hander Patrick Schuster and Alonso righty Ray Delphey was trumped by a few profound swats of aluminum, none more decisive than the one delivered by Kevin Games.

Mitchell's sophomore leadoff hitter capped a breakout night with a two-out, two-run double in the seventh inning to rally the Mustangs (12-2) to a 7-5 upset of the previously undefeated Ravens in a pivotal Class 6A, District 7 contest.

The triumph, on a windy west Tampa night, prevented the Ravens (10-1) from clinching the district tournament's top seed. It also helped the Mustangs conquer a mental speed block they previously struggled to navigate when arriving on the campus of the formidable Hillsborough County foe.

"We'd come in here and it seems like in the past, we've been happy with coming in here and playing a good game," Mustangs coach Scot Wilcox said. "This year is different and we're expecting to win every single game, even if it is Alonso or Gaither or Sickles."

Games' double, which bounced off the fence in left centerfield, capped a 3-for-4 night that included a two-run home run to dead center and ended with him one triple shy of hitting for the cycle.

Good thing, because Schuster — by his own admission — was off his game. Though he allowed only four hits in six innings, the University of Florida signee walked five and hit two others.

"I didn't have my stuff; I didn't feel very good," said Schuster, who nonetheless maxed out at 91 mph on at least one radar gun. "But I just kept battling."

The battle became treacherous in the third. After Tyler Ding's leadoff single in the third, Schuster hit the next two left-handed batters, then surrendered a grand slam to Adam Pendelton, giving Alonso a 5-2 lead. He responded by fanning the next three batters.

But unlike previous seasons, Schuster said he never lost confidence in his offense, which entered Tuesday's game with a .385 team batting average.

First, Schuster helped his cause with a run-scoring double in the fifth, followed immediately by Anthony Ritz's sacrifice RBI to center that made it a 5-4 game.

Then came Games' clutch seventh-inning hit, which followed a one-out double by Connor Hale and two-out single by freshman Joe Koehler. Matt Hewitt relieved Schuster in the seventh and delivered a 1-2-3 inning for the win.

"The last few years, it's all been about the pitching staff with me, Hewitt and (Ryan) Garton before," Schuster said. "Now I walked off that field with a 5-2 (deficit) and I said, 'Nah, I'm not worried about it.' "

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Baseball: Alonso stumbles for first loss 03/24/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, March 24, 2009 11:49pm]
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