DUNEDIN — Making it to the final of its own talent-rich tournament was rewarding all by itself. How Dunedin did it makes the achievement even more impressive.
Answering shut-down defensive innings with crucial production at the plate, the Falcons blanked Palm Harbor University 5-0 Wednesday night at the Blue Jays' Engelbert Complex to earn a slot in Friday's Dunedin Spring Classic final.
Holding a scant 2-0 lead on Ben Garcia's two-run single in the bottom of the first inning, Dunedin (14-8) was threatened in the fourth and fifth frames by the Hurricanes (8-12) and former Dunedin coach Tom Hilbert.
But with two on in the fourth, starter Josh Collett induced a ground out to third baseman Lake Fisher to end the threat. And when PHU loaded the bases with one out in the fifth, Collett used high heat to retire Gunner Wilson on strikes, then had Tanner Mink ground the first pitch he saw to shortstop Alex Sexton to keep the 'Canes scoreless.
"Especially with our defense, all of our pitchers work to contact," said Collett, who allowed a fifth-inning single by pinch hitter Channing Young, a walk and two hit batters in throwing his fourth complete game of the season. "I can just go out there and throw, save our bullpen, and do the best I can."
To thank Collett for his efforts, Dunedin doubled its lead in the fifth on Sexton's run-scoring double to deep leftfield and Garcia's sacrifice fly.
Sexton capped the scoring in the sixth with an RBI single.
"Against (unbeaten) Calvary Christian (last week), we didn't jump on our opportunities and they took advantage of our miscues," said Falcons coach Ron Sexton. "(Wednesday), we stayed true to ourselves and got some runs after a big stop. With good pitching and defense, we've been working even harder on our offense lately."
Dunedin faces 16-14-1 Bradenton Inspiration Academy, which downed Indian Rocks Christian (15-6-1) 8-1 in the other semi.
A five-run fifth inning broken open a 1-1 deadlock to send Inspiration — a last-minute replacement for IMG Academy — to the final.
Consecutive singles from Parker Farris, John Turner and Abel Diaz scored IRC's lone run in the third.
It took Clearwater Central Catholic two fields and extra innings to walk off with a 3-2 victory over East Lake.
After a lighting failure forced a half-hour delay and a move, an eighth-inning single from Chase Arnold and an error delivered Michael Paul (walk) with the winning tally.
Pinellas Park rode four hits from Cody MacFarlane, three more from Brently Scantland and five RBIs from Tyler Phillips to a 14-5 victory over Largo.
In early action, Dixie Hollins edged Extra Innings, 5-4.