BROOKSVILLE - The hits just kept on coming for Hernando. Not from their bats, but off their backs, and legs, and arms, and elbows -
In Friday night's Class 4A region semifinal, the Leopards' bats continued to hibernate, but somehow, the home team found a way to emerge with a 4-3 victory over Mitchell.
"So many teams are offensive when you go through the season," Hernando coach Tim Sims said. "Once you get to the playoffs, it's about putting pressure on the opposing defense and pitching. There's no style points here."
Both teams got three runs on the board by way of the home run. Hernando (25-5) struck first with a three-run bomb from Louis Colaiacomo in the bottom of the third. The rightfielder knocked in J.T. Simpson and Michael Goodwin with his towering fly to deep right-center.
The answer from Mitchell (23-7) occurred only a half-inning later. Kevin Games stepped to the plate after Gavin Hunt had walked and Conner Hale hit a bloop single. His three-run blast knotted the score.
The Mustangs got a solid effort from starter Games. He held Hernando to two hits with his knee-bending curveball, but the senior struggled with hitting batters. Before his complete-game effort was finished, he beaned seven Leopards.
"You want to hit it harder," Sims said, "but it's all about who's hot and making plays at the right time."
On the other hand, Hernando's Brett Maggard's only hiccup was the top of the fourth. He pitched the entire game, striking out nine and walking only two.
Games' wildness eventually pushed across the winning run. Without a hit, the Leopards won in the bottom of the seventh inning.
After an out, Matt Brady was hit by a pitch and pinch run for by Brandon Bell. The next batter, Simpson, was also hit. After a Brandon Gemmiti strikeout, Tyler Bammert walked to load the bases. In an anticlimactic end that advanced Hernando to a second consecutive region final, Colaiacomo took a pitch in the back, winced, then jumped in excitement.