PINELLAS PARK — It just got a little more crowded atop the Class 7A District 9 standings.
Pinellas Park (12-8, 5-3) jumped into a second-place tie with East Lake (12-7, 5-3) after goose-egging the Eagles 4-0 on Tuesday night.
“We all came out knowing East Lake is a good team and that we had to battle and stay on top,” said Pinellas Park ace and Tuesday's winning pitcher Brandon Grigsby. “Once we scored, we didn't give up. We just stayed ahead. The defense was tremendous tonight and I knew I could throw the ball inside and they'd make plays for me.”
While Grigsby's complete-game, three-hit shutout quickly stands out as the night's top performance, it was the Patriots' solid all-around play that got them back in the win column.
Pinellas Park's defense stepped up behind Grigsby in a big way, turning two double plays and committing just one harmless seventh-inning error as the senior righty rolled 11 groundball outs.
“He's the man,” Pinellas Park coach Pat Russo said of Grigsby. “When he's on the mound we can beat anybody. And if we play defense when he pitches – ooh – watch out.”
The Patriots spotted Grigsby a quick 1-0 lead in the first when Ryan Griffith sent a one-out triple down the right-field line and came home on Derek Jaar's groundout RBI a batter later.
With the way Pinellas Park burned up the base paths all night Tuesday, Griffith may have ended up in scoring position during the inning anyway had he not rapped a three-bagger. The Patriots stole nine bases, including a pair of double-steals of second and third.
“We're an exciting team when we get guys on base,” Russo said. “We had nine stolen bases, we hit-and-run unbelievably with [Ryan] Griffith there [in the third]. That's the kind of team we are. We just have to believe.”
As for East Lake, the Eagles' offensive woes continued Tuesday night. An opportunity with runners at second and third with two outs in the fourth represented the team's lone plate appearance with runners in scoring position.
Grigsby sat down the Eagles in order during five of seven frames.
East Lake starter Cameron Churchill suffered his first loss of the season, as well as his first earned runs, according to Eagles' scorekeeping. The senior fanned seven batters over five innings. Junior Steven Plaskett, who recently committed to play at the Air Force Academy, worked the sixth and recorded a rare four-strikeout inning. His first strikeout was dropped and the throw to first didn't get pinch hitter Joe Gibney in time.
Although everything after the first-inning run was technically insurance, Pinellas Park expanded its lead to 3-0 with a two-run, three-hit third. Triston Allen and Grigsby each came through with run-scoring base hits.
Grigsby and Griffith finished with two hits apiece for Pinellas Park and the Eagles got their trio of singles from Brad Deppermann, Keegan Maronpot and Sawyer Wirth.
Both teams have two remaining District 7A-9 games before the league tournament begins on April 22 at Countryside High.
East Lake hosts Countryside (10-6, 4-4) on Friday night and travels to Seminole (10-9, 3-4) next Tuesday. The Eagles' next game is at non-league opponent Osceola on Thursday.
Following Thursday's non-league game against Lakewood, Pinellas Park goes to Clearwater (1-18, 0-8) on Friday and hosts first-place Northeast (14-4, 6-1) next Tuesday.
WP – Brandon Grigsby (5-4)
LP – Cameron Churchill (4-1)
Keegan Maronpot – 1-for-3, 1 SB
Cameron Churchill – L, 5.0 IP, 4 R, 3 ER, 6 H, 7 K, 1 BB – 0-for-3
Steven Plaskett – H, 1.0 IP, 0 R, 0 H, 4 K
Pinellas Park (12-8, 5-3)
Brandon Grigsby – W, 7.0 IP, 0 R, 3 H, 6 K, 0 BB, 1 HBP – 2-for-3, 1 RBI
Ryan Griffith – 2-for-3, 2 R, 1 3B, 1 SB
Triston Allen – 1-for-3, 1 RBI, 1 SB