Wednesday, January 17, 2018
Sports

Saladino baseball: Strawberry Crest no-hitter

BRANDON — Mark Moclair knew late in Wednesday's Saladino Tournament quarterfinal that he was in the midst of a special game.

It wasn't until the junior right-hander glanced over at the Strawberry Crest dugout in the final inning and saw his teammates ready to swarm the field that he realized just how unforgettable his performance had become.

"I don't think they had a hit," Moclair said. "Oh my goodness."

Moclair's no-hitter shut out rival Plant City 3-0 and propelled the Chargers (9-4) into today's tournament semifinals, where they'll play a Jefferson (8-4) team that edged host Brandon 1-0 in the late game.

Moclair looked and felt strong in his pregame bullpen. But the nerves of facing a strong rival program he had always wanted to pitch against flustered him once the game began.

His fastballs drifted high. His curveballs spiked into the dirt. He needed 38 pitches to get through the first three innings against the Raiders (8-5).

"He was amped," catcher Tyler Chancey said. "We just had to calm him down as a team."

Strawberry Crest coach Eric Beattie told Moclair to control his emotions and throw the ball at 80 percent instead of rocketing it as hard as he could. Moclair listened, and the advice worked nearly flawlessly.

His fastball command returned. His curveball was unhittable. Five of his seven strikeouts came in the final four innings.

"I felt a lot more comfortable, a lot more calm," said Moclair, who threw 52 of his 85 pitches for strikes.

A strong defense helped him out as well. Chancey threw out both runners who reached on walks, and shortstop Colin Allman made a key defensive play to preserve the 14th no-hitter in Saladino history.

And, eventually, Strawberry Crest's offense prevailed to spoil strong performances by Raiders pitchers Billy McKay and Miguel Martinez.

Moclair's bloop to center started a seventh-inning rally for the Chargers. Three batters later, Flabio Garcia knocked a two-run double down the leftfield line for the game's first runs.

"Mark kept us in that whole game," Garcia said. "I had to get something on."

Chancey followed with an RBI single to boost the lead to three, setting up Moclair's big moment in the bottom half of the inning.

He forced the first Raider to ground out and struck out the next on three pitches. Then, with his teammates ready to storm the field, he came through with his seventh strikeout of the night.

So after spending the last four innings trying to remain calm, Moclair finally let his emotions escape. He yanked off his cap, pumped his fist and roared into the windy night.

In the later quarterfinal, the Dragons' Jordan Norman outdueled Brandon's Ryan Anderson to put Jefferson in the semifinals.

Norman allowed six hits in his complete-game shutout and relied on a strong Dragons defense to improve to 3-0 this spring.

Jefferson caught an Eagle off the bag at second in the third, and shortstop Jose Cuellar made a highlight-reel play to save a hit and potential run in the fifth.

Anderson was nearly as impressive. He struck out eight batters and didn't allow a hit in the first four innings. But the Eagles' struggles in the fifth were enough.

Jony Gonzalez and Daniel Amonte both singled, and Gonzalez took advantage of two pitches that crashed into the dirt to score the game's only run.

Brandon (8-4) had a chance to force extra innings in the seventh after Teddy Flynn walked and stole second with one out. But Norman notched two of his four strikeouts to preserve the victory.

Comments
Rick and Tom podcast: Can the Lightning keep up this pace?

Rick and Tom podcast: Can the Lightning keep up this pace?

In their latest podcast, Tom Jones sits down with Joe Smith to catch up on the Lightning through 44 games as it gets set to come back from the bye week.Will the Lightning be looking to add pieces at the trade deadline, who might it have to give up, w...
Updated: 8 minutes ago
Could Mikhail Sergachev replace Hedman on All-Star team?

Could Mikhail Sergachev replace Hedman on All-Star team?

With Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman out 3-6 weeks with a lower body injury, he has to get replaced on the Atlantic Division team. There are plenty of strong candidates to fill the void, including the Maple Leafs' Morgan Rielly and Boston rookie C...
Updated: 1 hour ago
A look at Rays 40-man roster with spring training starting in less than a month

A look at Rays 40-man roster with spring training starting in less than a month

With the start of spring training now less than a month away, here is what the Rays roster looks like, with the most glaring hole at first base, which at this point seems likely to be manned by Brad Miller, and some questions about the pitching staff...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Rays opener will be late-afternoon affair

Rays opener will be late-afternoon affair

The Rays' March 29 season-opener against the Red Sox has been set for a 4 p.m. first pitch at Tropicana Field.This will be the ninth straight year the Rays have opened at home, and the third time they have opened against the rival Red Sox.  The ...
Updated: 3 hours ago
What are the Ducks getting in J.T. Brown? What is Tampa Bay losing?

What are the Ducks getting in J.T. Brown? What is Tampa Bay losing?

The Ducks claimed right wing J.T. Brown off waivers Sunday because they wanted depth on their fourth line with a forward who could play both wings and center."We will not bring him there to sit in the stands," Ducks coach Randy Carlyle told reporters...
Updated: 3 hours ago
How Urban Meyer helped J.T. Barrett prepare for the NFL draft

How Urban Meyer helped J.T. Barrett prepare for the NFL draft

ST. PETERSBURG – Quarterback J.T. Barrett is one of the most accomplished players preparing for Saturday's East-West Shrine Game at Tropicana Field.He's the only three-time captain in Ohio State history, and he set at least 37 school/Big Ten re...
Updated: 5 hours ago

Overtime favors Countryside in girls hoops bout with Clearwater

CLEARWATER — Two similarly successful teams in Clearwater and Countryside combined for one exciting game.Facing each other Tuesday night in a brilliant, all-out girls basketball battle, one unfortunate play turned the tide.Leading by two p...
Updated: 10 hours ago
From Finland, with love: Kyle Curinga’s back stateside with Rowdies

From Finland, with love: Kyle Curinga’s back stateside with Rowdies

When Kyle Curinga decided he wanted to be a professional soccer player, he knew it was going to take a lot of sacrifice. There aren’t many places nearby for a kid from Clearwater to get paid to play the game.So after a stellar career at Clearwater Ce...
Published: 01/17/18
Plant City boys basketball feasts on community support

Plant City boys basketball feasts on community support

PLANT CITY — One morning a few days before Christmas, Plant City High’s boys basketball team piled into a local eatery for some pre-tournament breakfast.With coaches and players and so forth, the combined tab involved a few dozen people and maybe a f...
Published: 01/17/18
Hillsborough High tight-end earned Bill Minahan Award on, off gridiron

Hillsborough High tight-end earned Bill Minahan Award on, off gridiron

TAMPA — Martha Minahan didn’t just shake hands or give pats on the back to the award winners Monday night at the Columbia Restaurant. She gave the winners big, sincere, heart-felt hugs, much like her husband, the late legendary football coach Bill Mi...
Updated: 2 hours ago