WESLEY CHAPEL — Mitchell senior Garrett Kriston spent the first half of his spring break at a science fair in Lakeland.
He spent Friday night putting on a different kind of show.
The right-hander threw an 111-pitch gem to lead the Mustangs to a 4-2 win over host Wiregrass Ranch and give Mitchell the Pasco County spring break tournament championship.
"Good thing I got back so I can be here tonight," Kriston said.
The Covenant College recruit and the Mustangs (12-7) struggled early, leaving the bases loaded in the first inning. Kriston's wild pitch in the third scored the Bulls' Marcus Guzman, and a dropped third strike for the would-be final out set up an RBI single by Alex Goebel for Wiregrass Ranch (15-5).
But Mitchell wasn't worried after overcoming plenty of early deficits throughout the season.
"We do that all the time," said Kriston, whose science fair kept him out of the Mustangs' previous tournament games. "We're a team that always comes back."
Mitchell recovered one of those runs in the bottom of the third when a failed pickoff by Wiregrass pitcher Ryan Kopenski brought Joe Koehler home from first. The Mustangs took a 3-2 lead in the fifth on an RBI single by Eddie Goscicki and another failed pickoff that scored Cobi Johnson.
"That's the way it works in games like this," Mitchell coach Scot Wilcox said. "And good teams take advantage of it."
The Mustangs tacked on an insurance run with Josh Lamb's RBI single in the sixth. That was plenty of cushion for Kriston, who allowed six hits in a complete game. Two of his nine strikeouts came in the final inning — his only 1-2-3 frame of the night.
Mitchell's championship seemed unlikely six weeks ago when the Mustangs were mired in an 0-4 start. Since then, they have adjusted to new faces from the junior varsity squad and jelled as a unit, just in time for a playoff run.
"We're unstoppable when we come together as a team," Kriston said.
And they have Pasco County's spring break trophy to prove it.
Earlier Friday, Land O'Lakes topped Sunlake 13-3 in the third-place game.
Pasco sophomore Robbie Hanlon won the home run derby, topping Koehler, Land O'Lakes' Joey Martinez and Ridgewood's Robert Anderson in the final. Hanlon homered on 13 of his 30 swings and hit five in the last round.
Times staff writer Matt Baker can be reached at [email protected]