DUNEDIN — Pinellas Park doesn't have a junior varsity baseball team.
Instead, the best players in the younger grades end up on the varsity squad, which turns out to be a good thing.
On Monday, in the first round of the 41st Annual Dunedin Baseball Tournament, the effects of said youth movement proved worthy as Allen Mead's four RBIs paced the Patriots in a 4-3 win over Tarpon Springs. The sophomore utility player capped his night with his first high school home run, a two-run shot in the fourth inning that was the eventual winner.
Patriots junior Donny Norris got out of trouble in the seventh inning after allowing the first two batters to reach base with two strikeouts and a flyout to earn his fourth victory of the season.
"Before I went up to bat (in the fourth inning) Donny kept saying, 'We need runs, we need runs,' " said Mead, who had a two-run single earlier in the game. "After I hit (the homer), I walked into the dugout and told him, 'Now, you gotta hold 'em.' "
Morris showcased his vast improvement in finishing games after a sophomore year in which he struggled to reach the fifth inning. Last season, Morris had to be relieved during a playoff game against Tarpon Springs with a lead that the Patriots (10-4) eventually lost.
Against the Spongers on Monday, Morris (4-2) was nearing 120 pitches in the seventh inning with two runners on and no outs. The 6-foot-2, burly right-hander calmly struck out the next two batters, both on his slider, then induced Nick Miller into a flyout to right.
"I struggled last year to last innings," Morris said. "I worked tough bullpen sessions over the summer with that in mind. This year it's been nice to walk out there in the last inning knowing I have the same strength as the beginning of the game."
Christopher Ruggiero went 2-for-3, including a three-run home run for the Spongers.
In other action, Ian Ham raised his record to 3-0 in Tampa Catholic's 11-1 mercy-rule game against River Ridge that ended in five innings. The Crusaders (11-1) advance to the second round. Also, Countryside defeated Maclay 16-5, and East Lake got past King's Academy 8-4.
Today's schedule will include first-round action held over from Monday.