EAST LAKE — Clearwater coach David Vince was curious how his team would react after letting a three-run, seventh-inning lead slip away in a loss to Countryside on Thursday.
The Tornadoes responded in an emphatic way Friday, rallying to beat East Lake 7-5 in the Class 5A, District 11 opener for both teams.
"I was proud of the guys for being able to bounce back from such a tough loss," Vince said. "All fall we kept losing to East Lake by a run almost every time. We finally broke through."
The Eagles, who started 5-0 and were averaging more than 10 runs per game, managed eight hits, all singles. Steven Croyle was 3-for-3 and Nick Mazzoni and Austin Bembnowski were each 2-for-3 to lead the Eagles.
But East Lake never got the big extra-base hit it needed, particularly in the late innings. Drew Posavec hit shots to the warning track in the fifth and seventh innings that were caught.
After taking a 1-0 lead in the second inning, Clearwater kept fighting off a rally by the Eagles. The last one came in the sixth inning when East Lake scored to tie the game at 5.
In the seventh, the Tornadoes' Sean O'Brien led off the inning with walk, stole second and came home on an error for what proved to be the winning run. O'Brien, a Florida State signee, also had a two-run single in the third.
"Sean is being more selective at the plate this season and is getting a lot more walks," Vince said. "That was big for him to get on base and get things going for us in the seventh."
After that, Clearwater held on with straight outs in the bottom of the seventh.
"These guys kept fighting all game," Vince said. "It's something we needed with district play starting."