SEFFNER — It's too early to tell whether the hierarchy in District 5A-8 baseball shifted after Thursday night — especially considering rivals Brandon and Armwood could play each other three more times this season, with much bigger stakes on the line.
But the Hawks' 4-0 win over the Eagles showed Armwood's ability to rebound. Still stinging from an upset loss to King on Tuesday, the Hawks jumped on the Eagles early and relied on the steady arm of their ace.
"It showed that we can beat any team if we play like we did tonight," said Hawks senior starter Robert Benincasa, who threw a four-hit shutout, his second complete-game shutout of the year, while lowering his ERA to 0.72.
The win also lifted Armwood into a first-place tie with Brandon in the district standings.
Armwood (11-3) batted around in a three-run bottom of the first as the Hawks' first five hitters reached base and Josh Spano and Tyler Alexander (3-for-3) hit run-scoring singles off Brandon starter Chase Sparkman, who lasted just 32/3 innings.
Benincasa (6-0) allowed just one runner to reach third, when the Eagles were threatening in the fourth with runners at first and third and two outs. But shortstop Zack Powers made a diving stop on Aaron Estrada's line drive to end the inning.
The Eagles (10-3), without two of their top hitters for the season, didn't help themselves. Brandon's No. 6 through 9 hitters were a combined 0-for-11 with four strikeouts and a first-inning throwing error, along with a dropped fly ball in the fourth. Each led to runs.
"I just told our guys that you're not measured by what you do against .500 teams," Brandon coach Matt Stallbaumer said. "You've got to do it against the Benincasas."
Tampa Catholic 12, CC Catholic 2
TAMPA — Tampa Catholic scored a season-high 12 runs in just more than four innings on the way to a mercy-rule win over Clearwater Central Catholic (6-8).
Tampa Catholic (8-4) broke the game open in the bottom of the second inning when it had five consecutive hits, leading to a four-run inning.
No. 9 hitter Hank McCloud did most of the damage with a two-run double.
The Crusaders, who totaled 11 hits, scored three more times in the third as McCloud added two more RBIs on a hard single down the line to chase Marauders starting pitcher Zack Olson.
McCloud finished with a career-high five RBIs and added two runs and two stolen bases.
"Hank is just red-hot right now," Crusaders coach Rich Arena said. "He makes a big impact when he swings that bat and gives us great speed at the bottom."
Tampa Catholic starting pitcher Trent Stoker went 41/3 innings to get the win, allowing one run on five hits.
J.D. Diaz, Dominic Millan and Brandon Mendoza each had two hits for the Crusaders and Shane Rowland and Giavanni Morrero homered. Morrero's homered as a pinch hitter and ended the game in the fifth inning.
"We're just looking to go out every day and do the things we're trying to do that we know will make us successful as we move on," Arena said.
Justin Dargahi, Times correspondent