CLEARWATER — Andrew Mink delivered the big blow and Michael Paul made it stand up in Clearwater Central Catholic's Class 3A-9 title defense Friday.
Mink took a first-inning, first-pitch hanging breaking ball and cranked it over the 360-foot marker in straightaway center field at Victory Field for a grand slam against Calvary Christian. The unbeaten, top-seeded Marauders rolled 9-1.
"I hit really bad in batting practice before the game and I didn't want to take that onto the field with me," the junior catcher said. "I felt good coming up to the plate and just looked for something I could put the barrel of the bat on."
CCC (25-0) jumped on opportunities. An error on a potential inning-ending double play set up Mink's slam. An errant first-inning pickoff throw put Zuriel Collins (walk) on third, scoring on the first of three Nico Dohse singles.
"Sure, it was a rough start but good teams have to face and overcome adversity," Calvary coach Greg Olsen said.
But freshman Paul — the younger brother of David Paul, Wednesday's winning pitcher in the semis — wouldn't let that happen. The lanky righty shackled allowed only a second-inning walk, a hit batter and Tommy Georgevich's RBI single in the fourth inning to the Warriors (20-7).
"I didn't even expect to be on the varsity this year," said Paul (5-0). "It's a dream, especially with my brother up here. Every inning, he gives me something to work on and he's taught me everything I know."
"Just knowing he was pumping strikes and letting the defense make plays made the difference," Marauders coach Todd Vaughan said.
5A-10: Pirates fall
GULFPORT — Bradenton Bayshore broke open a tight game with a six-run sixth inning to beat Boca Ciega 7-1 in 5A-10.
After four scoreless innings the Bruins (13-14) broke through in the fifth as Justin Lakin scored on pitcher Tully Allen's balk.
Allen avoided more damage in that inning but Bayshore chased him in the sixth, when eight of the nine batters he faced got on. Julian Valdivia, Lakin and Jayson Clayton all had RBI singles.
"We're a team that's still struggling at the plate so we can't afford to go down by five or six runs because it's going to be tough for us to catch up," Boca Ciega coach Ralph Rogers said. "We had some opportunities early and they made great plays to get out of innings."
Rogers said the balk was not the deciding factor: "We would have needed to score anyway. The balk made the game 1-0 and that was something we could have recovered from."
The Pirates (10-12) had two runners on in the fifth but Tanner Watkins grounded out to end the threat. Boca Ciega loaded the bases in the sixth but Christopher Williams was robbed of an extra-base hit on Andrew Kurutz's diving catch in leftfield. Allen scored when Daniel Capellan was hit by a pitch.
"Had we scored in the fifth maybe the atmosphere of the game would have changed," Rogers added.
Boca Ciega plays Wednesday at Jesuit in the region quarterfinals. "It's going to be a tough game but we're looking forward to the challenge," Rogers said. "No one is going to give us a chance but that's all right. They didn't give us a chance when we played Tampa Catholic and we surprised some people."
Corey Long, Times correspondent