EAST LAKE — With his defense stepping up behind him all night, Clearwater Central Catholic ace David Paul could afford to have a bit of an off-night.
The senior pitched around seven free passes by rolling 12 ground-ball outs and leading CCC to a 4-1 win at East Lake.
“It was all about being a pitcher and trusting my defense,” Paul said. “When you know you have that kind of defense behind you, you can pretty much go out and throw whatever you want and let them hit it.”
Middle infielders Zuriel Collins at shortstop and Derek Gibree at second base accounted for nine outs and turned in a number of rally-stopping plays. Gibree's unassisted, 4-3 double play that ended the fifth came moments after Paul spun and nailed an East Lake baserunner at second on a designed pickoff play.
“We've been working on that throughout the years I've been here, but that was a really successful one,” Paul said of his second of two pickoffs on the night. “That was a really perfect pickoff play. We had everything moving right.”
Despite being limited to only three hits, East Lake had at least one baserunner in every inning but the second. Two of those three singles came in a first inning that saw the Eagles put two on with one out and ultimately strand the bases loaded.
“We couldn't get the big hit,” East Lake coach Dan Genna said. “We had a chance first and third with one out and we get a pop up. Then we had first and second with no outs [in the fifth] and got picked off.
“So we shot ourselves in the foot on two big innings and then we didn't capitalize on some of the stuff we usually capitalize on.”
The Eagles grabbed the game's first lead without recording a hit in the third. With Cameron Chruchill (walk) and Ian Lisle (hit-by-pitch) at second and first, respectively, Genna called a double steal that resulted in CCC catcher Andrew Minkli's throw bounding into center field. Churchill easily scored on the play, but it would be the last time an Eagles baserunner would advance past second.
The Marauders took control with a three-hit, three-run frame in the top of the fourth. East Lake starter Brad Deppermann nearly limited the damage to just Paul's RBI single, but an error at second with two outs and the bases loaded allowed a pair of unearned runs to cross home.
CCC center fielder Britton Araujo helped push the lead to 4-1 in the seventh by drawing a leadoff walk against Eagles relief pitcher Steven Plaskett, stealing second and third, and then coming around on Gibree's sacrifice fly to center.
East Lake drew walks number four and five off Paul in its last at-bats, but first baseman Tyler Simmons made two more big plays behind CCC's senior pitcher that secured the win.
“David Paul, give him credit,” Genna said. “He came in and settled down after the first inning. He made the adjustments and we did not.”
CCC recorded six hits – all singles – and leadoff man Andrew Murphy produced two of them.
The Marauders stayed unbeaten at 12-0 with the win and will take the field again Monday as part of the 45th Annual Dunedin Spring Classic.
East Lake dropped to 10-4 and will travel east for the Florida League High School Invitational on Monday.
“This team's close and we're about to turn it around,” Genna said. “We've got a good tournament in Orlando this week. I told the guys we're going to see four really good teams and if we're going to go far in the playoffs, you have to come in and compete against the Clearwater Central Catholics and the other big dogs.”
CCC - 000 300 1 --- 4-6-2
LP – Brad Deppermann (3-3)
Clearwater Central Catholic (12-0)
David Paul – W, 7.0 IP, 1 R, 0 ER, 3 H, 4 K, 5 BB, 2 HBP – 1-for-4, 1 RBI, 1 R
Derek Gibree – 0-for-3, 1 RBI, 1 Sac Fly – Defensive 2B (4 A, 2 PO, 1 DP)
Zuriel Collins – 1-for-2, 1 BB
Brad Deppermann – L, 5.0 IP, 3 R, 1 ER, 5 H, 2 K, 1 BB – 0-for-2, 1 BB
Cameron Churchill – 1-for-3, 1 R, 1 SB, 1 BB
Nick DeSantis – 0-for-1, 1 BB, 1 HBP – Defensive C (2 CS)