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Brandon catcher Michael Smith hits grand slam as Hillsborough routs Pinellas in Tampa Bay High School All-Star Classic

ST. PETERSBURG — For former Brandon catcher Michael Smith, one of the best parts of playing in the Tampa Bay High School All-Star Classic at Tropicana Field on Sunday was sitting next to Wade Boggs and getting to pick the brain of a Hall of Famer.

Then when it came to gametime, Smith made his own mark, hitting a grand slam that hit just to the right of the gold seat in the Trop's rightfield stands where Boggs' 3,000th career hit landed.

In a game featuring the top seniors in Hillsborough and Pinellas counties, Smith's slam capped a five-run fourth inning in Hillsborough's 9-0 thumping of Pinellas, marking Hills­borough's third victory in as many games.

For some, it was the end of their baseball careers. For others, it was nostalgic — the end of their high school careers before college. And for few, it marked their final innings before their names are called in this week's MLB draft.

For Smith, who hit .474 with seven homers his senior season at Brandon, his next stop is St. Petersburg College.

"I just saw a fastball and I unleashed," said Smith, who was named the Hillsborough team MVP. "It really hasn't sunk in yet, but it was a nice feeling to hit a home run to end my high school career."

Meanwhile, Pinellas had more than twice as many walks allowed (12) as hits (five). Seminole's Mike Martello (2-for-3), the team MVP, was the only Pinellas player with multiple hits.

"The shutout alone kind of represents Hillsborough County as it is, the pitching and stuff," said Armwood pitcher and FSU recruit Robert Benincasa, who opened the game with two hitless innings.

Pinellas starter Joe Lamoureux (Seminole) walked five in his two innings but allowed just one run — that coming on a bases-loaded walk to Plant's Mychal Givens in the second.

But Hillsborough broke the game open in the fourth. After East Lake's Cody Alessi walked the bases loaded, Jefferson's Chad Taylor hit an RBI infield single to short.

With the bases still loaded, Smith stepped to the plate and took Alessi's first pitch, an outside fastball, the opposite way to give Hillsborough a 6-0 lead.

"A lot of our guys haven't played in about a month," Pinellas head coach David Vince (Clearwater) said. "The teams that made state playoff runs are the teams from Tampa."

Arley Benton (Spoto), Taylor Leggatt (King) and Blake Kennedy (Lennard) also drove in runs for Hillsborough.

Pinellas had the bases loaded three times, including once in the ninth inning with two outs, but Plant pitcher Jake Lowe ended the game — and his two scoreless innings — with a strikeout of Anthony Diaz (PHU).

Pinellas was just 1-for-8 with runners in scoring position.

"We had opportunities," Vince said. "Their pitchers did a good job of keeping us off balance."

PHU's Varner wins home run derby

Palm Harbor U first baseman Anthony Varner won the Tampa Bay High School All-Star Game Home Run Derby, edging Jesuit's Greg Dupell, 6-5, in the third and final round.

Using a point system that awarded points for line drives and balls that hit the fence in the air, Brandon catcher Michael Smith was the only one out of the eight competitors to hit one out of the park, hitting three home runs in the opening round, all coming in his final six swings of the round.

Smith and Dupell advanced to the semifinal round from Hillsborough, and Varner and Dixie Hollins' Mark Danna advanced from the opening round from Pinellas.

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Brandon catcher Michael Smith hits grand slam as Hillsborough routs Pinellas in Tampa Bay High School All-Star Classic 06/07/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, June 9, 2009 5:36pm]

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