After blasting through its first three opponents at the 44th Annual Dunedin High School Spring Baseball Tournament, Lynn Haven Mosley stepped into a pitcher's dual Friday night against East Lake.
The Dolphins outscored St. Petersburg Catholic, Calvary Christian and Dunedin by a combined 41-15 while fueling its run into the championship game with 15 extra-base hits.
East Lake and sophomore starting pitcher Steven Plaskett didn't allow those previous displays of power shake their confidence, though. The Eagles (15-2) hung with Mosley (19-1) pitch for pitch and were 90 feet away from extending the tight contest, but the Dolphins escaped with a 1-0 win and the tournament hardware.
“Obviously that's a great team and it was two Goliaths going at it, I guess,” East Lake coach Dan Genna said of the two one-loss squads going head-to-head. “We've answered the bell all year and we just came up a little short today. Throughout the tournament, that's four great games we played.”
Adding an interesting storyline to Friday night's title game was that it wasn't the first time these two teams met with a championship on the line. It was Mosley that beat the Chris Coghlan-led Eagles in 2002 at Legends Field for the Class 5A state title. The 8-7 final gave Mosley its lone championship and denied East Lake in its only finals appearance in school history.
Neither team's lineup was able to figure out the others tandem of pitchers it faced: Steven Plaskett (4 IP) and Brad Deppermann (2 IP) for East Lake and Andrew Deramo (5 IP) and Austin Bizzle for Mosley.
The game's lone run crossed home in the bottom of the second. With Dolphins at second and third with one out, a pitch got away from Plaskett that allowed Logan Qumoyog to score. He got to third after leading off the frame with a base hit to left-center field and advancing on Zack Rhodes' double to the base of the right-field wall. Plaskett bounced back nicely from the wild pitch to retire the next two batters.
Despite being shut out and limited to three hits, East Lake wasn't without its scoring opportunities. The Eagles left seven runners on the base paths and had a man in scoring position in four innings.
The best chance came at the end.
Tyler Neuhaus led off the seventh by shooting a two-strike base hit through the right side and promptly stole second. Ian Lisle then sent a chopper to second that nearly bounded over the head of Mosley's Connor Green, but the junior made the play at first while Neuhaus moved to third.
After reliever Austin Bizzle got Andrew Prozzillo to pop out in foul territory near first base, Plaskett gave East Lake runners at the corners by getting hit by a pitch. That set the table for leadoff hitter Troy Strominger, one of the Eagles' top bats, but his bouncer to third wasn't enough to bring in Neuhaus. Rhodes, Mosley's senior third baseman, slightly juggled the ball but recovered and his throw beat Strominger at first by a step.
“It was a little nerve-wracking,” said Mosley coach Todd Harless of the tense final moments. “I brought my senior in, he's one of our top three pitchers and he's that guy you want out there in that situation.”
“You're looking at an inch either way,” Genna said. “That's the difference of the game right there. But if we're ever going to go deep in the playoffs we've got to compete with teams like this and figure out a way to beat them.”
Bizzle turned in two innings of one-hit, shutout ball to earn his third save of the season. Deramo, a hard-throwing righty, exited after the fifth having surrendered two hits and striking out four.
Plaskett and Deppermann were equally impressive for East Lake, and the Eagles defense sparkled, as well.
Plaskett's night ended after giving up a leadoff single to Dillon Brown to start the fifth. He held Mosley's potent offense to five hits and the one run.
“That's a sophomore right there and his second career start,” Genna said of Plaskett, who also reached base in each of his three plate appearances. “He manned up today and we're proud of him.”
Deppermann entered ready for the moment and throwing hard, striking out two of the first three batters he faced and allowing just one walk over two innings.
“He was pumped up today,” Genna said. “He had to be 88-89 today. That's good for him. He just went out there and pumped strikes.”
The Eagles middle infield supported its pitchers by turning inning-ending double plays in the third and sixth.
Harless said he had been looking forward to participating in the Dunedin tournament and was impressed with the weeklong event.
“I told our kids and parents when we were raising money to come down here that I knew this was some of the best baseball in the state. If you get to Central Florida and South Florida, it's some of the best in the state. I knew looking at the field it was going to be absolutely unbelievable.
“I told them when we came down that we're going to try and treat this like the playoffs,” he continued. “We need to win four games to win the title so let's go try to win four games. This was exactly what we wanted.”
East Lake now gets a three-day break before playing a three-game schedule next week that includes two critical Class 8A District 8 games. The Eagles first face Palm Harbor University on Tuesday and Sarasota Riverview on Friday. Both games are at home and bookend Wednesday's road tilt at Sunlake.
The event's full All-Tournament Team will be announced on Monday, but three individual awards were given out.
Mosley's Brady Bell took home Most Valuable Player honors, Clearwater Central Catholic's David Paul and Deramo from Mosley were co-recipients of the Pitching Award and St. Petersburg Catholic's Max Geller won the Hitting Award.
In Friday's other action, Clearwater Central Catholic took third place by beating Dunedin, 6-4, and Osceola got past Tarpon Springs, 5-1.
EL - 000 000 0 --- 0-3-0
Mos - 010 000 x --- 1-5-1
WP – Andrew Deramo (7-0)
LP – Steven Plaskett
S – Austin Bizzle (3)