ST. PETERSBURG — Taylor Layner attended a funeral Friday morning for his grandfather, then honored him later with a pitching performance that was, simply put, heavenly.
Throwing on probably the toughest day of his life, the Osceola lefty was outstanding against Northeast: a career-high 17 strikeouts and one hit allowed in an 8-1 victory.
In the past, Taylor Layner would have headed home and his first phone call would have been to John Layner, who died last Saturday and was buried Friday in Bushnell.
"Today was tough," an emotionally drained Layner said. "After every game since I was 5, I'd call him after every game to tell him how I did.
"Now I can't do that anymore, but at least now he can make it to every game. That's what I was thinking when I was out there pitching tonight."
Layner, who was hitting 86-88 mph on the gun, seemed able to muster something special every time he fell behind against Viking hitters.
Setting the tone, he opened the game with three straight balls but came back to strike out leadoff hitter Walter Lamerson. He fell behind 3-0, 2-0 and 1-0 on the three batters he faced in the second and struck out all of them. In the third inning, he fell behind Lamerson again 3-0 before another strikeout.
Layner struck out the side in the second and third innings, and had eight straight at one point.
"He started texting me first thing Friday morning, telling me he was playing," Osceola coach Kevin Mullins said. "He kept telling me he wanted to do it."
Tyler Brown hit a home run in the second inning for Osceola (9-2) and Scott Schlapinski added a three-run homer in the third inning to make it 6-0.
Schlapinski's homer, his third of the season, was part of a 2-for-3 night, as he added an RBI single and bases-loaded walk to finish with five RBIs.
Northeast's Shawn Delmontagne was the only Viking to touch Layner. He homered in the fourth inning and doubled in the seventh. But after his second hit, Layner finished off the game with two strikeouts, exceeding his normal pitch count by a measure Mullins was unwilling to admit.
"Thanks for the seventh inning," he told the coach who had reluctantly let him go back out to finish the game. "I needed that."