BRANDON — Despite the impressive record and the familiar setting, this Brandon team is much different than the one that claimed the Saladino Tournament title last year.
Injuries to the Eagles' top hitters have taken plenty of pop from their lineup, but Brandon's bats proved to be opportunistic enough to earn a 5-1 win over Sickles at Don Powell Field in the tournament's second day of pool play Monday. A win over Robinson today will advance the Eagles into Wednesday's quarterfinals.
"We're starting to find some rhythm," Brandon coach Matt Stallbaumer said. "Tomorrow is kind of that key game where you want to get the win and keep moving in the right direction, but you don't want to look too far ahead."
The Eagles (14-4) dodged a big inning in the first, taking advantage to back-to-back Sickles baserunning blunders, limiting the Gryphons to one run despite allowing three of the first four batters to reach base. In the second inning, a double play helped erase a leadoff walk and base hit.
Brandon second baseman Derek Dungan's two-out, two-run single gave the Eagles the lead in a three-run second that included two Gryphons errors. The Eagles then added two more runs in the fifth — both runners reached on hit batsmen — on freshman Chris Toney's single.
Starter Cory Schools settled after the second, allowing just one hit before giving way to reliever Chase Sparkman, who retired six of seven in the sixth.
Tampa Bay Tech 26, East Bay 8
Alonso 10, Freedom 4
Robinson 11, Blake 0 (5 innings)
Brandon 5, Sickles 1
Pitchers of the day: Alonso senior Jordan Huchro pitched six innings of one-run ball, allowing just two hits after the first inning (five total), striking out four and walking none. … Robinson's Josh Smith tossed a complete-game four-hitter, striking out five in five innings.
Hitters of the day: In what was the best offensive performance of the tournament thus far, Tampa Bay Tech junior Anthony Hernandez was 5-for-6 with four doubles and eight RBIs to go along with three runs scored. Titans teammate Tyler Lawson drove in four runs and was 2-for-3 in TBT's big win over East Bay, setting the stage for a division championship title matchup with Alonso today. … Ravens junior 2B Tyler Ding was 3-for-4 and two RBIs, including a homer in the third inning. Alonso RF Jose Fernandez hit a three-run homer as part of a six-run fifth inning for the Ravens, his second in as many games. … Robinson's John Cimino was 3-for-3 with a double, triple, three runs scored and an RBI while teammate Jakob Konner was also 3-for-3 with four RBIs.
Defensive gems of the day: Josh Smith made a nice jumping stop on a comebacker to the mound to start a 1-6-3 game-ending double play in the fifth inning. … Sickles 1B Tripp Merrell made a spectacular diving play into the gap and threw to first, robbing Brandon's Adam Sass of a hit. Gryphons teammate Josh Dunn made a nifty charging play on a nubber in front of third to throw out Chris Toney at first.
Did you know? With its loss to Robinson, Blake is 0-32 in Saladino play, the only team that hasn't won a game in tournament competition. The Yellow Jackets beat the Knights earlier this season. … Members of the Citrus Park Little League team threw out first pitches before the Sickles-Brandon nightcap.
Dugout chatter: "Both Jordan (Huchro) and Jose (Fernandez) have been throwing in relief for us and I've got to make a decision on whether he's going to start for us or come in at the end. I think he has a lot of confidence and we don't have a problem bringing him in." — Alonso coach Landy Faedo on Huchro, who will be asked for more innings after the season-ending injury to Ravens ace Ray Delphey