SEMINOLE — The Pinellas Park National senior baseball team (ages 15-16) sat anxiously in the stands as Palm Harbor and West Hernando took the field at Cross Bayou Little League on Sunday with the sectional title hanging in the balance.
Needing a Palm Harbor win to stay alive in the title race, Pinellas Park National watched helplessly as West Hernando built a 6-1 fifth-inning lead.
The team's mood, however, would quickly change.
Palm Harbor pulled within a run after Curt Savaglio's RBI double made the score 6-5 through five. West Hernando added a run in the sixth before James Petika's RBI single and a two-out error tied it up for Palm Harbor.
Two batters later, Matt Kizer drilled the first pitch from Kyle Dennis over the fence for a three-run homer that sent Palm Harbor to a 10-7 win and gave new life to Pinellas Park National before its final game against Keystone.
"(Our players) were down and out with two innings to go, and I told the guys, 'You've just got to believe,' " PPN coach Tony Warren said. "After that home run I said, 'Now, we've got to go out and take care of business.' "
Which is exactly what Pinellas Park National did. Justin Warren's three-run homer in the second propelled the team to an 8-2 win over Keystone and the sectional crown after PPN, Palm Harbor and West Hernando finished in a three-way tie with 2-1 records. PPN earned the tiebreaker by giving up the least amount of runs (8) at the tournament, two less than West Hernando, and advances to the state tournament this weekend in Fort Myers.
CITRUS PARK 10, SEMINOLE 0: Michael McGuire hit a grand slam in the fourth inning and pitched a complete game shutout (nine K's) to lead Citrus Park (3-0) to the major baseball sectional title in a five-inning game. Citrus Park will travel to Boynton Beach for the state tournament, with its first game Friday.
EAST LAKE 12, HUDSON 0: For the second game in a row, David Paul led off the game with a homer for East Lake, this time in a rout of Hudson in four innings. James Condren added a three-run home run in a seven-run first inning for East Lake (2-1).
WEST PASCO 14, WEST HERNANDO 1: A day after wrapping up the sectional crown, West Pasco (3-0) finished the tournament with a dominant win over West Hernando in four innings. Blaize Grabowski's grand slam in the second put West Pasco ahead for good. Three West Pasco pitchers (Ryan Johnston, Elliot Desvergnes and Joe Vaccarino) combined for a one-hitter. West Pasco will travel to Coral Springs this weekend for the state tournament.
SEMINOLE 6, TAMPA BAY 1: Chris Berry hit a solo home run and Jacob McFadden pitched a complete game in the win for Seminole (2-1).
PALMA CEIA 13, SEMINOLE 3: Palma Ceia finished the tournament 3-0 after winning the sectional title Saturday and advances to this weekend's state competition in Orlando.