PLANT CITY — The Plant City baseball team's hot start has even surprised Raiders coach Mark Persails.
A team that returned just one starter, the Raiders won their sixth game out of seven to start the season with Tuesday's 5-1 win over Bloomingdale.
"I'd be lying if I said I expected it," Persails said.
But Persails knows a young team that gains quick confidence can be dangerous. Since the Raiders took an 8-0 pounding to Newsome in their preseason opener, Persails says his has been a different team.
"They decided they wanted to play hard all the time," he said.
Early wins over King and Armwood, two teams that reached the Class 5A state tournament last season, have given the Raiders that confidence boost. And Tuesday's win over the Bulls was an important next step, especially coming off their first loss of the season against district foe Durant on Friday.
"I was hoping we'd come out and play hard and not worry about having a young team," senior second baseman Art Knight said. "So far we've come out and played some pretty good teams, King and Armwood, and we've come out to prove something, and show the team we really are. We're having fun this year."
The Raiders also received solid pitching from junior right-hander Evan Bowles, who tossed a five-hitter against the Bulls. Bowles struck out seven and walked just two.
"When he stays in control, he's tough to hit," Persails said. "If he maintains his composure on the mound, he has the kind of stuff that can get him drafted."
Knight, Plant City's hottest hitter with a .478 batting average, hit his fourth homer in five games, a two-run blast to leftfield in the fifth inning.
Plant City (6-1) also took advantage of a costly Bloomingdale miscue in a three-run second.
After Bobby Mondoux's one-out run-scoring single, a throwing error to home plate on a grounder to shortstop scored two more runs and gave Plant City a 3-0 lead.
"That's kind of how we've been all year," Bloomingdale coach Kris Wilken said. "We're an error away from it being a 3-1 game instead of a 5-1 game. To me it's not so much taking a lot of fungos or extra BP. A lot of it is just a mind-set."
Conor Malloy's RBI single in the fourth scored Bloomingdale's only run, but the Bulls (3-4) stranded four runners in scoring position and had runners thrown out twice, including once at the plate that killed the fourth-inning rally.