EAST LAKE — East Lake blew the doors off a close ballgame Friday night with a six-run sixth inning to win its second-straight Lee Byers Invitational Tournament championship.
Visiting IMG Academy (2-1) entered the title game having outscored its first two tournament opponents by a combined score of 28-7, but this time it was the Eagles' turn to display some offensive might.
“This team works hard,” said East Lake coach Dan Genna after the 9-3 win. “When we put innings together where we hit, we're going to be tough to beat.”
Hits for either team were hard to come by early against Friday's starters. East Lake's Ryan Wall and IMG's Brian Rapp kept hitters guessing for the better part of five innings. It wasn't until the Eagles got into the Ascenders' bullpen that they gained some separation.
Wall, a junior coming off a breakout performance last season, earned the win by turning in a two-hit gem for his first start of the year.
“I pitched against a team similar to this in the fall,” Wall said of IMG's potent offense. “I knew they were going to give me a battle but I gave it my all and did pretty good.”
“Another great performance from him,” Genna said of the junior. “He did unbelievable. If we would've got four innings out of him we would've been happy, and he goes six. He just battles, he has good mental toughness and he doesn't get rattled.”
Only one of IMG's two runs against Wall was earned -- nine-hole hitter Alex Mangome's home run to lead off the sixth. Displaying the grit referenced by his coach, Wall shrugged off the shot to dead left field and retired the top of IMG's lineup in order.
“He got a good swing on it, good for him, but I try not to look in the past; just move on to the next one,” Wall said. “You can't let any of that affect the future batters.”
Mangome's dinger in the top of the sixth brought IMG to within a run, at 3-2, but East Lake responded with a bang in the home half. The Eagles sent 11 batters to the plate and scored six runs on four hits, including Ian Lisle's two-run double.
Four of East Lake's eight hits were doubles, including freshman Cristian Sieman's third-inning two-bagger for the game's first hit. Sieman took advantage of new life by sending a two-strike shot down the left-field line just after IMG third baseman Ryan Karstetter dropped a pop-up in foul territory. Sieman then scored on a passed ball after leadoff hitter Sawyer Wirth moved him to third with a groundout to short.
IMG tied the game at 1-1 in the top of the fourth on Luke Bonfield's sacrifice fly to center, but East Lake answered with an unearned run in the bottom half to take the lead for good.
The Eagles (3-0) play twice next week, traveling to Palm Harbor University on Tuesday at 4 p.m. and staying on the road Friday for a trip to Lakeland George Jenkins.
IMG - 000 101 1 --- 3-4-3
Brian Rapp – ND, 4.2 IP, 3 R, 1 ER, 3 H, 8 K, 2 BB, 1 HBP
Alex Mangome – 1-for-2, 1 RBI, 1 R, 1 HR
Luke Bonfield – 0-for-1, 1 RBI, 1 Sac Fly, 1 BB
Ryan Wall – Win, 6.0 IP, 2 R, 1 ER, 2 H, 1 K, 2 BB
Sawyer Wirth – 2-for-4, 1 RBI, 2 R, 1 2B, 1 SB
Cristian Sieman – 1-for-2, 2 R, 1 2B, 1 BB