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Dragons master curves in 8-7 victory over Falcons

Published Sep. 9, 2005

Like many of his teammates, Jefferson's Chase Manuel has difficulty hitting the curveball. He has trouble recognizing the pitch and is often fooled by it.

To help his players better prepare for the pitch, coach Pop Cuesta purchased special batting-practice balls that curve automatically.

He has seen improvement in the batting cage. Tuesday, that progress translated onto the field.

Manuel hit a two-run home run and a two-run single _ both off of curveballs _ as Jefferson came from behind to beat Leto 8-7 in a preliminary round game.

"I don't want to say it was luck," Manuel said.

"But that's what it seemed like."

With the victory, Jefferson improved to 2-0 in the North Division of the round robin tournament. The Dragons upended nationally ranked Plant 6-5 behind Javier Fiallo's complete game on Saturday.

"That puts us in a pretty good position now," Cuesta said. "We have to lose twice now for (Leto and Plant) to get into the playoffs."

Leto (0-1 in the tournament) touched Jefferson starter Jason Weintraub for three runs in the first inning, but the Dragons came back to tie the game on Manuel's two-run home run in the fourth.

Manuel's blast over the leftfield fence was his second of the season and first ever off of a curveball.

"He's got good pop in his bat," Cuesta said.

"He's only a junior. So hopefully, this will be good (for him)."

Jefferson used a two-out rally to score five runs in the fifth.

Andre Caldwell scored the go-ahead run on Julio Pacheco's double.

Weintraub followed with an RBI single, and Manuel drove home two runs with a bases-loaded single.

Jefferson added an insurance run on Alex Nunez's bases-loaded walk.

Leto scored twice in the top of the sixth to close to 8-5, and Jefferson replaced many of its starters, including Weintraub, in the bottom half of the inning.

The move nearly backfired, as Leto's Lamont Jordan hit a two-run home run off of Brian Chambers in the seventh to make it 8-7. Sergio Perez followed with a single, putting the tying run on first base with no outs.

However, Yariel Vignau hit into a double play while trying to sacrifice Perez to second, and J.B. Bailey was caught stealing to end the game.

Antione Ware went 4-for-4 with a double for Leto. Pacheco and Weintraub each had two hits for Jefferson.

In other action, Grant Chapman hit a grand slam and Adam Drury pitched a complete game as Sickles shocked Plant 10-4 to run its tournament record to 2-0. Plant slipped to 0-2.

Matt Whitney and Brad Vassalotti hit back-to-back home runs as Palm Beach Gardens whipped Tampa Bay Tech 17-7 in five innings, dropping the Titans to 0-2 in the tournament.