BRANDON — The day after Brandon's disappointing loss to Brooks-DeBartolo in Tuesday's Saladino Tournament pool play finale — a game in which seven starters were benched in the fifth inning — Eagles coach Matt Stallbaumer decided to tinker with his lineup card for Wednesday's quarterfinal against Gaither.
The new look, which had Brandon's five starting seniors stacked at the top of the lineup, ended up working remarkably well.
The Eagles pounded Gaither 14-4 in five innings, ending the Cowboys' 16-game winning streak. And with the win, Brandon is just two wins away from its second Saladino title in three years.
The Eagles (17-5) will face Plant in Wednesday's 7 p.m. semifinal at Brandon.
"I wanted to make a message (to the seniors) that you've gotten us to this point over the last couple years," Stallbaumer said. "It's time for you to bring us home.
"That's what I was trying to do internally."
Brandon's 14-hit attack wasn't full of astronomical blasts — all of them were singles — but every starter had a hit.
And new No. 5 hitter Derek Dungan, the 5-foot-6 senior who usually bats ninth, sparked the Eagles' nine-run third inning, hitting a two-run single that opened the gates for a frame that saw 14 Brandon hitters come to the plate.
In that inning, the Brandon seniors were 6-for-6 with seven runs scored.
"Once one of us gets on, the rest of us usually follow," said Brandon senior catcher Roderick Shoulders, who was 3-for-4 with an RBI. "That's what happened in that one inning when we put up nine runs."
The Cowboys (18-3) left 11 runners on base, stranding the bases loaded three times. A Gaither team that scores nearly 10 runs a game had little firepower.
First baseman Brady North did hit the week's first home run at Brandon, a solo shot into the wind over the left-centerfield fence.
In the other quarterfinal, Plant survived an ugly game, taking advantage of 14 Wharton errors to advance 11-9.
Mike Demo was 3-for-4 with an RBI double while Tanner Anderson and Connor Mitchell also had multiple hits for Plant (13-8).
The Wildcats (11-10) had their opportunities. Trailing 10-9 in the sixth inning, Plant reliever Stan Rowe stranded the based loaded with a strikeout.
"I'm proud of our guys because they've been in the fire a lot and they continue to come out and grind," Plant coach Dennis Braun said.