VALRICO — With a pair of college-bound senior aces on the mound Tuesday night, Plant and Bloomingdale knew runs would be at a premium in their Class 6A-8 district contest.
And for five innings, both offenses faltered while Plant's Tanner Anderson and Bloomingdale's Robby Kalaf kept the scoreboard full of zeros with an array of groundball outs that made the pivotal district game look more like infield practice.
But backed by the Harvard-bound Anderson, who had the help of some well-executed Plant small ball, the Panthers continued their recent simmering with a 3-2 district win for their sixth straight victory.
"I tell these guys every year, other than some seeding it really doesn't matter until we get to the end how we're playing," Plant coach Dennis Braun said. "I think it's important that we keep getting better every day. These guys bought into it and they didn't panic. They understood we lost some close games early on."
Bloomingdale loaded the bases with no outs in the bottom of the fifth, and Plant scored three runs the next half inning.
"That was huge," Anderson said. "We had momentum on our side. Right after that we scored three runs and that helped my confidence. I had the lead so all I had to do was keep it."
After Shawn Henderson's leadoff single, Mike Demo reached on a bunt single, setting the stage for Nick Ramos' RBI single to left-center. Ramos was thrown out at second but Demo then scored on Kyle Woodford's double. Plant (9-4, 4-3) scored its third run when the throw on a steal attempt at third sailed into leftfield.
Anderson (4-1) threw 21 of 31 first-pitch strikes, keeping the ball low in the zone with an effective slider and cutter.
Bloomingdale (8-8, 3-3) rallied in the seventh inning and had the game-tying run at third — and the winning run at first — until Joe Hudek caught a hard line drive at third to end the game.
"The way we came back in the seventh was all I needed to know," Bloomingdale coach Kris Wilken said. "We played hard from the first pitch to the last. We just didn't get it done, but it came down to a liner at third. What are you going to do?"