Friday's championship game has been set in the Dunedin High Spring Baseball Tournament, but it took a little controversy to get there.
Clearwater Central Catholic found itself down 2-1 to East Lake but with the bases loaded and only one down in the top of the seventh. Leadoff hitter John Karaphillis sent a well-struck grounder to Brad Deppermann at third and the controversial final play proceeded to unfold.
Deppermann went home to try and start a game-ending 5-2-3 double play. Catcher Grant Hodges received the throw and stepped out from the plate to get the inside throwing lane as Karaphillis raced to first, but the throw went into foul territory in right field.
The CCC bench and supporters erupted as two Marauders crossed the plate to put CCC ahead, 3-2. The origin of cheers quickly shifted to the Eagles faithful, though, when the umpiring crew waved off both runs and ruled the game over. Karaphillis' path from the batter's box to first was deemed illegal – be it from running out of the base path or waving his arms – and the interference call completed the wildest double play East Lake will likely turn all season.
“I went to go get a lane, when I went out to get the inside lane he was in the grass and I'm taught to peg him in the back,” Hodges said while describing the play. “Not to hurt him or anything, that's just what we're taught. He's in my throwing lane and I've got to throw through him.”
The instructed action is similar to how a shortstop attempting to turn a double play is taught to throw directly through a base runner coming into second if he refuses to get down and slide.
The CCC dugout and its supporters adamantly expressed their collective disapproval of the game-ending call, but to no avail. East Lake advanced into Friday night's title game with a 2-1 win.
“I didn't want to win like that, but we have no control on what umpires see or how they call it,” East Lake coach Dan Genna said afterward. “But it was an excellent game. We're in good shape, we're enjoying it and we'll see what happens.”
Cameron Churchill earned the victory from the mound for East Lake, tossing a complete game in his first start back in nearly two weeks because of stiffness in his back.
“Church threw a great game,” Hodges said. “All night he was keeping the ball down, he really wasn't missing his spots and he was there the whole game. It was really impressive especially because he's coming off a sore back. Major props to him, he played his butt off.”
The Eagles staked Churchill out to a 2-0 lead in the fourth with a pair of RBI singles from Tyler Neuhaus and Mark Saunders.
East Lake, advancing to its first championship game at this tournament since 2010, will take on Lynn Haven Mosley at 8 p.m. Friday night.
The Dolphins have been on an offensive tear since arriving from the panhandle and they didn't stop Wednesday against Dunedin. Mosley jumped on Falcons starter Alex Hart early and often – both in the game and in the pitch count – and raced out to a 3-0 lead after one inning and 10-0 advantage after 3 1/2.
“We saw they were aggressively early in the count and it didn't matter what the pitch was,” said Dunedin coach Tom Hilbert. “They hit anything we threw and they hit it on a line.”
Only 1 1/2 innings away from being mercy ruled, the Falcons displayed their fighting spirit by clawing backing into the game. Dunedin sent nine batters to the plate while matching Mosley's five-run fourth with a five spot of its own in the home half.
Left fielder Aaron Chesson delivered the inning's biggest blow when he ripped a bases-loaded triple into the right-center field gap. That two-out hit came two batters after Mosley starter Ashton Rogers gave way to reliever Dillon Brown.
“I'm proud of my boys,” Hilbert said. “They sure as heck didn't quit and as long as we've got a bat in our hands we aren't going to quit.””
Spotting a team like Mosley 10 runs before getting the offense going wasn't going to cut it for Dunedin on Wednesday, though.
The Dolphins improved to 18-1 on the year and have now outscored its three tournament opponents 41-14. They bashed out 16 total hits, including three doubles and three triples. Mosley has now recorded an impressive 15 extra-base hits over three games.
Connor Green and Clay Causey had three-hit nights and Brady Bell went 4-for-5. All three aforementioned Dolphins hit a triple, Causey drove in four runs and Bell brought in two.
Dunedin's third pitcher, Eric Sexton, limited Mosley's bats to two runs on five hits while striking out four over the final three innings.
Chesson and Jack Hamrick recorded two hits apiece for the Falcons. Second baseman Trevor Jensen reached base safely four times, with a single and three walks.
Seven hits combined with eight walks gave Dunedin plenty of scoring opportunities, but 12 base runners were left stranded after not enough batted balls landed safely in the clutch.
The Falcons threatened again in the fifth, but shortstop Kellen Brown's two-out drive to center hung up long enough for Jordan Larry to settle underneath.
“It's a situation where it was 10-5 and the bases loaded with KB up – you couldn't ask for a much better situation in that spot,” Hilbert said.
Dunedin will now play CCC on Friday at 5 p.m. for third place.
In other Wednesday tournament action, Tarpon Springs beat St. Petersburg Catholic (16-1), Osceola beat Pinellas Park (7-4), Countryside beat Fivay (4-3) and Calvary Christian beat Pasco (4-0).
Thursday's schedule features four contests. The 5 p.m. games are Central-River Ridge and SPC-Pinellas Park. Playing at 8 p.m. are Countryside-Calvary Christian and Fivay-Pasco.
Mos - 320 502 0 --- 12-16-3
Dun - 000 501 0 --- 6-7-2
WP – Ashton Rogers (2-0)
LP – Alex Hart
CCC - 000 001 0 --- 1-5-3
EL - 000 200 x --- 2-5-5
WP – Cameron Churchill
LP – Troy Olmo