PALM HARBOR — There weren't season-ending implications or anything, but Palm Harbor University needed a confidence-building victory against a district opponent.
Powered by a dominant pitching performance from senior Brian Auerbach, the Hurricanes got just that Friday afternoon.
PHU (3-4, 1-2) notched its first Class 8A District 8 win of the season by beating Sarasota Riverview 4-1.
“It was definitely a big game,” Auerbach said after his complete-game victory. “It was a must-win for us. I pitched well, we played good defense, got clutch hitting and we pulled it off.”
Riverview entered the game averaging a district-high 5.6 runs per game, but struggled to square up anything against PHU's senior righty. Auerbach scattered five hits, struck out six, walked no one and needed only 80 pitches in his seven innings of work.
“Having control of my cutter was big because I haven't had that much,” the senior said. “That was definitely the equalizer for me and just throwing strikes.”
Adding to Auerbach's early confidence was PHU jumping out to a 2-0 first-inning advantage.
“It's definitely a lot easier to pitch with a lead,” he said. “We hit well today with runners in scoring position.”
Third baseman Shane Mullen drove in the first run with a hard-hit double and catcher Ethan Olivero followed with a single that plated Clayton Moran, in the game courtesy running after Auerbach drew a walk two batters earlier.
Olivero recorded two of PHU's eight hits Friday while also turning in a solid performance behind the plate.
“He did a great job blocking balls and then he threw two guys out, too,” PHU coach Joel Slawinski said of his senior backstop.
The only time Auerbach allowed a Rams baserunner to advance beyond first base was during Riverview's run-scoring fifth inning. Down 4-1 at the time, Sam Dannheisser and Brett McCabe hit a pair of doubles to get the Rams on the board.
PHU scored single runs in the third and fourth to go up 4-0. John Pichman's double to deep center plated Evan DiFrancesco, Olivero's courtesy runner, in the third and Auerbach helped himself out with an RBI single an inning later.
“We finally put together a full game,” Slawinski said, crediting his staff of pitching coach Eric Easton, hitting coach Doug Easton and assistant coach Rick Mullen for getting the team ready for Friday.
“My pitching coach Eric Easton called a great game and we worked on a couple things in practice this week like going up the middle and going to the opposite field. That's what paid off for us today.”
PHU now prepares for its second three-game week of the season. The 'Canes will host Lakewood on Tuesday at 4 p.m., travel to Dunedin on Thursday night at 7 and take a trip to District 8A-8 opponent Bradenton Manatee on Friday at 7.
The Lady Hurricanes didn't fare quite as well against Riverview Friday afternoon.
PHU lost its first game of the season, falling 7-6 after surrendering all seven Rams runs in the top of the fourth. That outburst put Riverview on top 7-2 at the time.
The 'Canes showed fight by plating four in the sixth to make it 7-6, but Rams pitcher Deanna Stevens sat PHU down in order in the seventh to preserve the big win.
Riverview (5-4, 3-0) takes over sole possession of first place with the victory.
PHU dropped to 7-1 overall and 1-1 in league play.
The 'Canes welcome Seminole to town Tuesday afternoon and travel to Bradenton Manatee with the baseball team next Friday night.
SRV - 000 010 0 --- 1-5-2
PHU - 201 100 x --- 4-8-1
WP – Brian Auerbach (1-1)
Sarasota Riverview (4-2, 1-2)
Brett McCabe – 1-for-1, 1 RBI, 1 2B
Sam Dannheisser – 1-for-3, 1 R, 1 2B, 1 SB
Palm Harbor University (3-4, 1-2)
Brian Auerbach – W, 7.0 IP, 1 R, 1 ER, 5 H, 6 K, 0 BB – 1-for-2, 1 RBI, 1 BB
Ethan Olivero – 2-for-3, 1 RBI – Defensive Catching (2 CS)
Shane Mullen – 1-for-3, 1 RBI, 1 2B
John Pichman – 1-for-3, 1 RBI, 1 2B