ST. PETERSBURG — Shorecrest has made it to the Class 2A state tournament with an offense that relies on smart hitting.
John Rothwell is a reliable leadoff guy who can spray hits all over the field. Others at the top and middle of the lineup know their way around the batter's box, too. Shorecrest's 2-3-4-5-6 hitters (Brent Rasmussen, Marc Brakeman, Spencer Heath, Jon Oorlog, Jason Kiracofe) have all been productive, either getting on base or clearing them.
It's all part of a relentless offense that has scored a combined 28 runs since the district tournament began two weeks ago. But what really has put Shorecrest on top has been the bottom of the order that keeps coming through in key situations.
The last three hitters (No. 7 Tyler Larson, No. 8 Andrew Roy, No. 9 Jake Brandenburg) have provided enough evidence to show the Chargers are more than just those at the top of the lineup.
Against Bradenton St. Stephen's, Brandenburg had the tying hit that forced extra innings and lifted Shorecrest to a victory that sealed the No. 1 seed in the district. In the region semifinal against rival Northside Christian, Roy had the winning hit in the seventh inning.
And in last week's region final against Bishop McLaughlin, Larson hit a two-run double that tied it. Brandenburg followed two batters later with what proved to be the winning single in a 3-2 victory.
"The bottom of our order has just been humongous for us," coach Don Reed said. "These guys have really battled and come through with so many big hits when we've really needed them."
One of the reasons the last three hitters have been so productive is because the top and middle of the order have been getting on base.
"I feel like we're really solid up and down the lineup," Brandenburg said. "…The guys at the bottom of the lineup are doing well because we're seeing good pitches. We have a lot of guys on base and we see a lot of fastballs and we're taking advantage of them."
The ability to score a lot of runs and get them in key situations has been a big lift for the Chargers' top two pitchers.
"I know I have to keep as few runs off the scoreboard as possible," said Brakeman after last week's region final victory. "But I know we can always catch up because we have the offense that can rally when we need it."