BRANDON — Armwood had the bases full of runners hoping to flood the scoreboard for another win.
But Gaither had enough of a cushion and the pitching to get the final two outs it needed Thursday for a 6-3 win to advance to tonight's Saladino Tournament final. The Cowboys (16-4) will go for their fourth Saladino title — and third in seven years.
"We went (into the tournament) and our hitting was starting to come around so we knew we would hit the ball," Gaither junior Mike Danner said. "… We just wanted it more. Pitching was there and we started hitting the ball in timely spots."
Danner gave the Cowboys an offensive boost with three doubles — one shy of the tournament single-game record — including two runs scored and an RBI. He gave Gaither a 3-2 lead scoring on a sacrifice fly by Justin Delgado in the second inning. Another sacrifice fly in the fourth inning scored senior Zach Ruiz for a 4-2 lead.
In all, Armwood (17-4) stranded 11 — eight in scoring position. The Hawks stalled offensively in the middle innings, placing a pair of runners on third base in the third, sixth and seventh innings, but bringing in only one run.
Cowboys pitcher Austen Thrailkill went 51/3 innings with a pair of strikeouts, six hits and five walks. Cowboys junior Dylan Hathcock retired the final two batters in the seventh after Armwood had runners at the corners. Hathcock finished with three strikeouts, including the final two in the seventh.
"You have to get a break," Gaither coach Frank Permuy said. "… When you're down you have you have to get someone to get you up."
Gaither last won the Saladino Tournament in 2005 with a 9-3 win against Alonso.
What would a win mean to his kids?
"It's the biggest tournament around," Permuy said. "It's the one everyone always talks about. … It's big."
Izzy Gould can be reached at email@example.com or (813) 226-3458.