DOVER — A Plant City defensive error gave Strawberry Crest the opportunity it needed to take an early lead in Monday’s Saladino Baseball Tournament quarterfinal. It was defensive prowess by the Chargers that turned that early lead into a decisive victory.
Senior right-hander Colby Fanning gave up just one base hit in a complete game, and Strawberry Crest stranded all three Plant City base runners as the Chargers beat the Raiders 4-0. Strawberry Crest will play at Durant in the Gold Division semifinal Tuesday night at 7. Jesuit hosts Wharton at 5 in the other semifinal.
“They’ve been great for us all year. They prepare to be great. They slow the game down when it needs to be slowed down,” Strawberry Crest coach Eric Beattie said about his team’s defense. “We trust the process, and they’re doing a great job.”
In the first inning, Fanning had a leadoff single to leftfield, and sophomore shortstop Arjun Nimmala had another base hit moments later to put a pair of runners on for the Chargers. When the Raiders tried to stop a steal, the Plant City catcher overthrew the second baseman, allowing two runs to score on the error.
Strawberry Crest (10-1) only built on its lead in the third after Fanning doubled, and Nimmala had his first of two RBIs. He had another in the fifth inning, driving home a run after a Christian Bolt triple.
While Strawberry Crest made moves offensively, Fanning stopped Plant City in its tracks. Fanning sailed through the first two innings, and he sat the Raiders down in order in four frames.
Plant City (7-4) had its first base runner in the third, when the Chargers dropped a routine flyball, sending junior infielder Jace Stines to third base. Strawberry Crest ended the threat immediately after with a quick groundout.
“My defense gives it 100 percent for me every time,” said Fanning, who finished 2-for-4 at the plate. “They lay out, they get dirty. They want it. They make the plays.”
Plant City infielder Colin Schultz got on base in the fourth inning on a wild pitch, but Fanning and the defense continued to work, and the senior had a no-hitter through eight. He lost it in the seventh when Schultz had a leadoff single, but Fanning shook it off, ending the game with yet another groundout.
“I think the win there is what he wanted more than anything. I didn’t see any sign of him being bummed,” Beattie said about Fanning losing his no-hitter. “He pitches to contact. When he gets to two strikes, he’s got the stuff to put guys away. But his goal is to not even get there.”
Newsome 7, Gaither 6
Jefferson 13, Riverview 2
Plant 5, Steinbrenner 2
Jesuit 14, Sickles 4
Strawberry Crest 4, Plant City 0
Durant 5, Lennard 3
Leto 4, Bloomingdale 0
Wharton 11, Alonso 0
King 14, Carrollwood Day 10
Freedom 10, Armwood 9
East Bay 11, Robinson 0
Hillsborough 4, Brandon 3