BRANDON — Frank Permuy thinks he might have the answer to surviving the grind of the Saladino Tournament.
Gaither's veteran coach said he would consider using one pitcher per inning for the remainder of the tournament to avoid putting high mileage on the arms of his pitchers.
The Cowboys used just two pitchers Wednesday in a 9-3 win against Wharton to advance to today's semifinal round.
Permuy handed the ball to junior Michael DeFranco, a 6-foot-1, 181-pound right-hander, who entered the game having pitched one inning this season.
"I was very nervous," DeFranco said. "When the coach put the ball in my glove I didn't know what to say. … If anything, (I thought) I had a one-in-a-million chance of getting one inning."
DeFranco did exactly what Permuy had hoped for after digging himself out of a hole in the top of the first. Runners had advanced to second and third with no outs before DeFranco managed to get the next three outs. He went 52/3 innings allowing nine hits, three runs, two walks and three strikeouts for his first victory.
The Cowboys scored nine runs over the final four innings to knock the Wildcats out of the tournament. Gaither sophomore Zach Jackson went 3-for-3 with a double, a run scored and an RBI.
Gaither (15-4) took an 8-0 lead before Wharton (10-8) scored three in the sixth.
"You have to have special guys to win this tournament," Permuy said. "By the time you get to the final round everyone has used up all their good guys, unless you sailed through it. … By the time you get to the semifinal you better figure out what your game plan is going to be. It's tough from then on."
Armwood 8, Plant City 5: As Armwood's players jogged half-heartedly to the dugout after the top of the first inning, they were met by coach Michael Wrenn at the third-base line. He didn't rip into them for the six Plant City batters who came to the plate or the two-run hole.
Instead, Wrenn filled their ears with a fiery pep talk and helped ignite a win that sent the Hawks into today's semifinals.
Senior Billy Farrell heard the right combination of words and led Armwood (17-4) with his bat, going 3-for-4 from the leadoff spot with three runs scored and a pair of RBIs. The Hawks took the lead for good in the second inning when Farrell scored on a sacrifice fly for a 4-3 lead.
"We're trying to set the pace with him," Wrenn said. "He's starting to progress as a leadoff. It's good to see a senior do what he's supposed to do."
Hawks sophomore Josh Spano and freshman Jordan Fameree each scored twice.
Pitcher Robert Benincasa earned the win going six innings with seven strikeouts and five hits.
Plant City (8-12) struggled with five errors. K'Shawn Smith's 2-for-3 performance with two runs scored, and a two-run home run in the fifth by Micah Carmony helped bring the Raiders within one. But Armwood scored twice in the fifth.
"The first inning could have been bad," Farrell said. "But we came and fought back like we're supposed to."