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Baseball: Wiregrass Ranch 9, River Ridge 7

WESLEY CHAPEL — The recent spell of inclement weather has created a backlog of makeup games for area baseball teams.

Exacerbating the problem is rapidly approaching district tournaments, which start in less than three weeks.

So when Wiregrass Ranch head coach Jeff Swymer saw a long-enough break in the rain to get his team's scheduled district tilt against River Ridge on Tuesday in the books, he made sure the opportunity wasn't wasted.

"We spent about four hours on the field, and I spent about $100 on cat litter because we were out of Turface," Swymer said. "We did the best we could to get it ready."

Swymer might be a little lighter in the wallet, but his Bulls added one more to the victory column.

In a sloppy game in which both teams made a number of costly mistakes, Wiregrass Ranch rallied from three runs down to defeat River Ridge 9-7.

Wiregrass Ranch (12-6) trailed 7-4 entering the bottom of the fifth inning after giving up five runs in the top half. The Bulls, though, immediately responded against River Ridge reliever Andy Blankenship.

The Bulls loaded the bases on a single, a walk and a bunt that went for a hit. Michael Barrone's single cut the deficit to two runs. Blankenship had trouble fielding Mike Campoamor's grounder, allowing another run to score on an error. John Michael Gant was hit by a pitch, forcing in the tying run.

River Ridge (9-10) went to the bullpen, calling on Tyler Cabral, but he too had command issues. He walked his first batter, Zack Drury, to score the winning run. Cabral's wild pitch brought home the Bulls' ninth run.

In the Royal Knights' big fifth inning, Matt Heimann laced a two-RBI single to centerfield to tie the score at 4. Cody Boland's sacrifice fly put the Royal Knights ahead, and Cam Hokanson's two-run single gave River Ridge the lead.

"There were pitching issues on both sides," Swymer said.

After the fifth, Wiregrass Ranch went to ace pitcher John Michael Gant to close out the win. Gant, who threw a no-hitter and struck out 16 Zephyrhills batters in his last outing on Friday, came on in the sixth and retired six of the seven batters he faced. He fanned the side in the sixth to extend his strikeout streak to 12 dating to the Zephyrhills game. Aaron Alessi's lineout to open the seventh snapped the streak.

"I would like for us not to get down so often, but I'm starting to see that these guys like being down and like trying to come from behind," Swymer said. "It's not ideal for a coach, but these guys don't give up. That's good to see because we're young."

Heimann's two-run home run in the first gave River Ridge a 2-0 lead. Wiregrass Ranch tied it in the bottom of the inning and took a 4-2 lead in the third on a walk and a hit batter with the bases loaded.

Baseball: Wiregrass Ranch 9, River Ridge 7 04/05/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, April 5, 2011 11:12pm]
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