TAMPA — This time last week, Gaither baseball coach Frank Permuy was fighting himself in his mind, trying to find a way to get his team out of one of those annual all-through-the-lineup hitting slumps.
The Cowboys' bats picked the perfect time to come back to life Friday night, as three home runs lifted the Cowboys to a 10-4 win over rival Sickles and gave Permuy — the only coach Gaither has known in its 25 years of existence — his 500th career win.
"It only means I've been coaching a long time," Permuy said. "It is special. I'm in good company."
That company includes two other county baseball legends. Former Jesuit coach John Crumbley and longtime Jefferson coach Pop Cuesta are the other 500-game winners.
Gaither (9-4) also clinched the third seed in Class 6A, District 7.
Cowboys third baseman Mike Danner, who entered the game mired in a 0-for-9 slump, went 3-for-4 with a two-run homer in the fifth inning.
After Sickles (6-7) jumped out to a quick 2-0 lead in the top of the first, Gaither tied the score in the bottom half of the inning with back-to-back homers by Drew Doty and Brady North.
Gaither then tacked on three more runs in the third, bunting down the third-base line four times, including twice for base hits, in sending eight batters to the plate in the inning and never looked back.
"We just wanted to go out and show we could play Gaither baseball," Danner said. "We saw some better pitches to hit and had better plate approach."