ST. PETERSBURG — It took extra innings last year to determine a winner at the Tampa Bay High School All-Star Classic at Tropicana Field. It took just one inning to determine this year’s winner.
Pinellas erupted for six runs in the second inning Wednesday off Bloomingdale’s Cody Crouse, including a three-run home run by Corey Baptist of Seminole, and cruised to a 9-1 win over Hillsborough. Pinellas had only seven hits but Hillsborough pitching gave up eight walks and committed three errors.
Some other news and notes from the seventh annual game:
MVPs: Baptist and Jesse Haney of Steinbrenner were named the Pinellas and Hillsborough most valuable players, respectively. Baptist’s three-run home run in the second landed in the same leftfield spot Evan Longoria hit his home run in Game 162 of 2011.
“I thought it might be out the way the crowd reacted, but I wasn’t quite sure,” Baptist said. “Then it ended up landing in that Evan Longoria spot. I’m not even a Rays fan; I’m a Red Sox fan. But now every time I come back here I can say I hit one where Evan Longoria hit one.”
In a game where Pinellas pitchers allowed only five hits, it was hard for the Hillsborough squad to find much offense. But Haney singled in the fourth inning, the only inning Hillsborough scored a run. He was also solid at catcher, throwing out two baserunners.
“I didn’t expect this at all, especially with the guys I’m surrounded by,” Haney said. “But it’s cool to be MVP of this game. It was great to play on this field. Maybe I’ll make it back here later on.”
A special win: Pinellas coach Pat Russo has some bragging rights in Hillsborough County. Russo, a longtime coach in the county with Plant, Hillsborough and Tampa Catholic, took over at Pinellas Park this year. He said he has been looking forward to the all-star game since he found out he would be the head coach.
“It was a big personal thing for me,” Russo said. “(Hillsborough assistant and Tampa Catholic coach) Ty (Griffin) and me have been friends forever. Dennis (Braun, who coached the Hillsborough squad) took over for me at Plant. (Hillsborough assistant and Durant coach) Butch (Valdes) and I grew up together. And I’ve coached against those kids for a long time. It was good for me.”
Danish relishes game at Trop: Durant pitcher Tyler Danish is projected to be a high-round pick in next week’s major-league draft. Wednesday was his last high school game — perhaps last amateur game — and he was going to pitch if at all possible.
“This is my last high school game. I’m going to throw,” Danish said. “Especially since it’s in the Trop. What an experience to be on the mound out here. This is where pitchers like David Price pitch. I wasn’t going to miss this experience.”
Danish, who did not give up an earned run as a senior, gave up two unearned runs in the ninth Wednesday. He walked four batters in the inning, but an error at third kept the inning alive and allowed the two unearned runs to score.
No-shows: King ace Brett Morales opted not to play for Hillsborough, according to Braun. Morales helped lead King to a state semifinal appearance.
“I guess whoever advises him didn’t want him pitching this close to the draft,” Braun said.
Tarpon Springs pitcher Caleb Koulianos was a late scratch for Pinellas, replaced by Seminole's Stephen Nobles. He pitched the fourth and gave up two singles, two walks and one run on a passed ball.
Pitching rules for Pinellas: Pinellas used eight pitchers and allowed only five hits. Seminole’s Nick Nolan pitched the first two innings and gave up one hit and struck out three. The only multi-hit inning for Hillsborough was the fourth. Countryside’s Jake Mielock, Jack Hamrick of Dunedin and Hayden Peiker of Northside Christian had perfect innings.
“I think we hit the ball hard, just right to them,” Steinbrenner’s Haney said. “But their pitchers did very well hitting their spots and throwing strikes.”
Despite giving up nine runs, Hillsborough pitchers struck out 13 batters.