BRANDON — Four outs separated King from the biggest upset of the Saladino Tournament, but a plate umpire ruled victory wasn't in the Lions' grasp.
From his vantage point, there was no definite grasp at all.
Such was how the win-or-go-home segment of the Saladino commenced Wednesday — with controversy.
With two outs in the bottom of the sixth, umpire Frank Digga ruled King catcher Ian Lynch juggled the ball on an attempted tag of Alonso senior Thomas Dorminy.
That provided the tying run.
An inning later, Ravens senior Tito Martinez walked, stole second and third and scored on a Lynch throwing error to allow the defending champions (17-4) to escape with a 4-3 quarterfinal triumph.
"They're a great club, and we battled our butts off. And that's all you can do," said Lions coach Jim Macaluso, who argued vehemently with Digga but wouldn't discuss the call publicly afterward.
"You can't crack the door a little bit. And we did, and they took advantage of it."
The victory — however debatable history might recall it — preserved a one-hit gem for Ravens junior Jose Fernandez. After giving up three first-inning runs on two walks, a single, outfield error and passed ball, Fernandez allowed one baserunner the rest of the game.
His 15 strikeouts were one shy of the Saladino record.
"In the first inning, it's hard for me every time," Fernandez said.
"At the state championship last year (a 4-3 win against Miami Columbus), the first inning was hard (two balks). After that, I got 17 outs in a row. This was just like the state championship game."
Fernandez's performance served as a prelude to more pitching mastery in Wednesday's second quarterfinal, when Jefferson No. 9 hitter Dennis Lopez's seventh-inning single down the first-base line scored Jacob Lopez to lift the Dragons (16-5) to a 1-0 win against Hillsborough (10-12).
Lopez's game-winner allowed sophomore Jimmy Herget's one-hitter to stand up. After working 11/3 innings the day before, Herget (four strikeouts, two walks, four hit batters) took a no-hitter into the sixth, when Jeffrey Mills doubled with a runner on first and no outs.
The Terriers' threat was quashed when Mills was picked off second for a double play after leftfielder Mike Estevez's shoestring catch of a Daniel Dominguez fly ball. Nick Maltezos then popped up to second to end the inning.
Hillsborough senior left-hander Spencer Nunez stood throw-to-throw with Herget for most of the game, taking a three-hitter into the seventh before Jefferson collected three hits.