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Dade City battles back from loser's bracket

(ran PC edition)

Thanks to a first-round bye, Dade City's 9-10 All-Stars opened the District 4 tournament knowing they could win a championship if they won their first four games.

After getting shut out in their first game, they're still alive in the double elimination tournament thanks to plenty of offense and wins on three straight nights.

"We're trying to do it the tough way," said manager Ricky Gude, whose team moved on to the district final four in Bartow, which started Thursday night. "It's going to take a lot, but that's what happens when you get in the loser's bracket."

A win Thursday night would give Dade City today off, but it would need to win Saturday, Sunday and Monday to pull off the come-from-behind district title.

"I think they were just nervous that first day, but after those first-game jitters, they've hit the ball well," Gude said.

That's an understatement. Monday they beat North Lakeland American 15-5, then followed with a four-inning 10-0 win against Lakeland City Tangerine. In the final game on their home field Wednesday, they eliminated Zephyrhills 11-1 in five innings.

Zephyrhills had started strong, winning its first two games, but its All-Stars saw their postseason end with losses Tuesday and Wednesday. Dade City, overcoming its slow start, has pulled off the opposite.

"We just started hitting the ball, and we did that well enough we only had to use four pitchers in three games," said Gude, who started Mark Joseph Thursday.

The offense came from everywhere. Trey Giles had two hits in all three games, including a triple Monday and a double Wednesday. Joseph had seven singles in three days, including three against North Lakeland American, when Cole Stancil also had three hits. Matthew Gude had a single and double in Monday and Wednesday's wins.

And after the tournament opener, Dade City's pitchers held their opponents to six runs in 15 innings. Joseph pitched four innings Monday through two rain delays, and Giles finished off the final two innings. The lopsided score ended the next two games early, making for easy complete games for Justin Caudill and Matthew Gude.

"They're excited about the way things have gone," Gude said. "The way they've hit the ball, it's giving them a lot of confidence at the plate."