DUNEDIN — There was more tension in attendance than joy. Fans were more pensive than players. For much of Wednesday evening, the winners bracket game in the Dunedin Invitational between bitter rivals Clearwater Central Catholic and Tampa Catholic sounded quiet.
The local anxiety on the Marauders' side was validated when the Crusaders scored a run in the fifth inning to tie the game and eventually send it into extra innings. And then it was broken on Ray Fox's two-run double in the eighth.
That final blast helped Clearwater Central Catholic beat Tampa Catholic 8-7 in a rematch of last year's tournament final, which the Crusaders won.
For Tampa Catholic, ranked 11th in the nation in the latest ESPN Rise poll, it was the first loss to a district opponent this season. The Crusaders cruised in their first meeting against the Marauders this month.
"I think the difference this time is we pitched better and got the timely hits," CCC coach Todd Vaughan said. "We were very opportunistic."
Another key for the Marauders was their defense, which turned three double plays and helped starter Patrick Camporini get out of a bases-loaded, no-out jam in the sixth inning.
With the game tied at 5 in the eighth inning, CCC scored three runs off four hits, the biggest coming on Fox's double. But the Marauders still had to sweat it out in the bottom half of the inning after Gio Marrero's two-run double made it 8-7. CCC ended the game by getting the next batter to ground out.
This was the second straight extra-inning win in the tournament for the Marauders, who advance to play Dunedin in the semifinals Friday at 8 p.m.
"The big thing is we want to play four games against good teams and learn something about our team," Vaughan said. "We're starting to do that."
Dunedin 10, St. Petersburg 0: Falcons pitcher Alex Norris was nearly pitcher perfect.
Mowing down batters with ease, the senior threw the first no-hitter of his high school career. He finished with eight strikeouts and was one batter from a perfect game. The only mishap came in the first inning when a Green Devil reached base on a throwing error.
"It was just one of those nights," Norris said. "I felt good early in the bullpen and was able to have some success right away. It's easier pitching with the lead, but I didn't look at the scoreboard too much. I knew had to bear down to win."
Norris got all the run support he needed in the second inning when Dunedin scored three runs on a home run by Mike Clarkson and two-run shot by Kyle Kunnen.
John I. Leonard 10, PHU 4: The Hurricanes fell behind and were never able to catch up in a losers bracket game. Palm Harbor University's Zac Johnson had another big game at the plate, going 3-for-4 with a double and run scored.