PLANT CITY — Sometimes it takes Plant City left-hander Parker Messick one inning to settle in and work out the kinks. But if he can get past the first frame unscathed, the senior said, he feels pretty good about the Raiders' chances.
In Plant City's region quarterfinal against Steinbrenner on Wednesday, things went exactly as expected.
Messick, a Florida State commit, gave up one hit in the first, but in the middle of the game he shined, stringing together three 1-2-3 innings and striking out eight to lead Plant City to a 2-0 victory and a region semifinal berth. The Raiders will host Plant on Saturday.
"It's that first inning," Plant City coach Michael Fryrear said. "If we can get out of that first inning without any damage or anything like that, I mean, he can mow the rest of the time."
With strong pitching and defense on both sides, the game went scoreless through the first three innings. Steinbrenner had four hits in the game — Michael Blackwood had a single in the fourth and seventh, and Griffin Garcia had another in the sixth to add to Ryan Lowder's single in the first — but no Warrior ever made it past second base.
Plant City (26-2) had a runner in scoring position in the first and third frames, but both times the Warriors were able to get out of the jam before any damage was done.
But in the fourth inning, Messick chipped in on the other side of the ball, too, and the Raiders finally got on the board.
The southpaw led off with an infield single, then the Raiders put another one aboard with a big double from Hunter Emerine. Tyler Dowdy followed to score the first run of the game on a sacrifice fly. Dowdy had the other RBI in the sixth, scoring Cole Cothren on a double.
"He drives it in the gaps," Messick said about Dowdy, who started on the mound in the Raiders' district championship victory last Saturday. "With men on base, second and third, he's pretty much the guy to get it in. That's why we've got him in that spot in the lineup."
Fryrear wasn't totally pleased with his team's offensive performance against Steinbrenner (16-9). The Raiders messed up a squeeze bunt, Fryrear said, and the base running could have been better.
Plant City had eight hits, but the Raiders, who averaged nearly six runs per game in the regular season, could only manage to drive two home against Steinbrenner.
But sometimes, Plant City learned Wednesday, that’s all it takes.
“These close games, we’ve relied on our pitching and our defense, and they’ve stuck it out with us,” Messick said. “Usually our offense is getting it done, but when we don’t, our defense is picking us up.”