Madeira Beach Post 273 coach Dave Pano threw up his arms and shook his head when asked to explain his team's mastery over Dunedin Post 275. He may not know the reason it hasn't lost to Post 275 in four years, but he isn't complaining.
For the fourth time this season, Madeira Beach defeated Dunedin, this time 12-6 in the semifinals of the Southwest Area American Legion Tournament at Brinker Field. Madeira Beach advanced to tonight's 7 p.m. final against Bradenton Post 24, which eliminated Dunedin 7-6 in a losers-bracket game Monday night.
Should Bradenton win tonight, a final game will be played Wednesday at 7 p.m. Regardless, both teams advance to the state tournament Aug. 1-4 in Bradenton because Post 24 is the host team.
"I really don't know what it is," Pano said. "We just seem to play well against them."
Madeira Beach (32-8) jumped on Dunedin early, scoring two runs each in the first two innings. The lead grew to 8-0 in the top of the sixth when Rick Stegbauer doubled to score Chris Bailey and Ryan Schlagenhauf, and a passed ball by Grant Abrams scored B.J. Leach.
But Dunedin would not go quietly. Post 275 scored six runs in the sixth to cut the gap to two runs. Brady Williams started the scoring with a double that drove in Brad Malone and D Desantis. After an error scored Matt Bowser, Jeremy Kurella had an RBI single that scored Williams.
A bases-loaded walk by starter Frank Burke scored Desantis and chased Burke from the game. Burke (6-2) pitched 5 innings to earn the win. Reliever Danny Hart walked in another run before Pano went with ace Leach to close out the inning.
Madeira Beach came back with two in the seventh to take the momentum away from Dunedin. Post 273 also added one each in the eighth and ninth.
"I knew we weren't out of the game against a team like Dunedin," Pano said. "They hit the ball well. But I do think it was big that we came back after that and got some runs. We battled back well."
Bailey led the way for Madeira Beach offensively, going 5-for-5 with two RBI. Leach was 3-for-5 and Schlagenhauf had two singles.
Madeira Beach, the top-seeded team in the tournament, defeated Safety Harbor Post 238 12-2 in its opening game Saturday.
In another losers-bracket game Monday, Post 238 lost to Bradenton Post 24 8-5. Safety Harbor, which ended its season at 22-10, had defeated Post 24 in the opening round 6-3.
Dunedin got down early once again against Bradenton Monday night, giving up two runs in the first on an error by Abrams. Bradenton added another run in the fourth, but Dunedin came back in the fifth.
Four Bradenton errors allowed four runs to score and gave Dunedin a 4-3 lead. Kurella also had a sacrifice-fly RBI in the inning.
Bradenton roared back with four of its own in the sixth, highlighted by a triple from Glen Metzger and doubles by Jody Friedman and Rob Chapman.
Dunedin attempted a comeback in the ninth, scoring two runs on RBI efforts by Kurella and Abrams. But with two out and Abrams on second, reliever Friedman struck out Brad Malone to end the game.
Zack Roper was 4-for-5 in the losing effort, which ended Post 275's season at 23-8.
"If you play pitiful defense like we did, you deserve to get beat," Post 275 coach Tony Abrams said. "We swung the bats well. We're a team that never gives up. But we just didn't play well enough on defense. It seems like we never play well at this graveyard."