ST. PETERSBURG — No matter how far baseball takes Plant High's Preston Tucker, there's no doubt he'll remember the home run he hit at Tropicana Field in the second annual Tampa Bay High School All-Star Classic.
Tucker, a first baseman for the Panthers who will play for the University of Florida next season, drilled a 3-2 pitch into the rightfield stands for a two-run home run in the third inning. Tucker's bomb, which cleared the yellow railing above the rightfield wall — about 340 feet from home plate — by a couple of inches, gave the Hillsborough County team a 4-1 lead.
Hillsborough went on to win 11-6, giving the county two wins in the game's brief history.
"I came in hoping I would (hit a home run)," Tucker said. "Just the feeling of hitting a home run in Tropicana Field is a great feeling."
Tucker, who finished 1-for-2 with a walk and was named MVP for Hillsborough, almost had a second home run. He smashed a ball down the rightfield line that had the distance but was foul by about 20 feet.
"I was coming in here expecting nothing really, maybe get a couple innings in," Tucker said. "I was seeing the ball pretty well and felt pretty good."
As it turned out, most of the Hillsborough batters were seeing the ball just as well.
After Pinellas tied the score at four in the top of the fourth on an RBI single from Craig Goodman and a two-RBI base hit from Matt Miller, Hillsborough put the game away in the bottom half with six runs. Hillsborough hit three straight singles off Shorecrest's Robby Thigpen before Thigpen walked Mitchell Lopez to make the score 5-4.
Jarryd Reid followed with a base hit to centerfield that scored two runs, and two Pinellas errors allowed two more runs to cross the plate. Andrew Virgili's sacrifice fly made it 10-4.
Pinellas got two runs back in the seventh inning on a two-RBI single from Jacob Barnes but couldn't close the gap any further.
"I did the classic movie thing, where you come out and go, 'Whoa,' " Pinellas' Jeff Reynolds said. "It was really a blast. We didn't play as well as we would have liked, but I won't remember that. I'll remember getting to play (at the Trop)."
St. Petersburg's Tyler Abadal was named the Pinellas MVP. Abadal scored the game's first run after getting hit by a pitch in the second inning. He singled and scored in the fourth inning.