DUNEDIN — Two weeks ago, Shaun Starnes strained his back, an injury so painful the Seminole senior wondered whether he should sit out Wednesday's big showdown against Dunedin.
Warhawks coach Greg Olsen, though, encouraged Starnes to play.
It was a good move.
Starnes hobbled up to the plate in the first inning and hit a two-run homer to start a game that had a series of odd, almost incredible turns.
The game turned for the last time when Starnes singled and reached third on an error in the eighth inning. He came home on a single by Nash Reling for the go-head run in a 7-5 victory.
The win preserved Seminole's perfect record (21-0) and its No. 1 ranking in the Class 5A state poll.
It also was the first time the Warhawks had beaten the Falcons in three seasons.
"It was a huge for us," said Starnes, who finished 3-for-4. "This was the game we wanted. I've never beaten Dunedin before."
Seminole started strong, building a 4-0 lead by the fourth inning. The Falcons rallied with one run in the bottom of the fourth and four in the fifth to pull ahead 5-4.
The Warhawks tied the game in the sixth inning when Chris Calhoon doubled, than was singled home by Mike Carlin.
That set up Starnes' heroics.
"It was tough," Starnes said. "My back was hurting with every swing. But I knew I had to keep going and stay focused."
Dunedin (16-4) had a chance to tie the game in the eighth. But Ryan Schneider's fly ball was caught at the warning track with two outs and one on to end the game.
The teams will meet in the Pinellas County Athletic conference championship game April 18.
CCC clobbers Canterbury 26-3
ST. PETERSBURG — Clearwater Central Catholic batted around in the first, third and fourth innings to achieve its highest run total of the season, defeating Canterbury 26-3.
The Marauders scored eight in the first inning, one in the second, 10 in the third, 6 in the fourth and scratched another run across in the top of the fifth. Sam Mende crushed a three-run home run in the fourth that served as an exclamation point.
"Offensively I was real pleased with the way the team hit tonight," said CCC coach Todd Vaughan. "We adjusted to the pitchers, we sprayed the ball around the field and got a lot of hard hits."
It was expected to be a battle of the county's top pitching programs but the top-ranked Mauraders wasted little time lighting up the scoreboard.
If there was any negative from the Marauders' dominating performance it was a couple of mishaps on defense, as CCC committed two errors and starting pitcher Joe McLemore struggled with his control during his short outing (11/3 innings).
McLemore, Patrick Camporini, Trevor Campbell and Zack Olson combined to give up just two hits to the Lancers. Olson, MVP of the Dunedin Spring Classic last week, was originally scheduled for a bullpen session Wednesday, but the big lead allowed him to get live work.
Corey Long, Times correspondent