DUNEDIN — Dunedin's annual version of March Madness is down to its Final Four.
Semifinals between Clearwater Central Catholic and Bradenton Inspiration Academy and Dunedin and Osceola will play out tomorrow night at Englebert Athletic Complex at 5 and 8, respectively. The semis were pushed up from Friday evening because of heavy rain in the forecast. Monday's opening day was delayed until Tuesday due to inclement weather.
Inspiration Academy, a first-year program out of Bradenton, advanced with Wednesday's 6-0 win over River Ridge. The Lions will play undefeated CCC, which moved on with its second mercy-rule victory in as many nights. The Marauders beat Tampa Bay Christian 10-0 on Wednesday and have outscored their two opponents 27-6.
Osceola beat Canterbury 9-2 on Field 5 before Dunedin dispatched Calvary Christian 4-1 in the nightcap.
Wednesday's spotlight was on the 8 p.m. game between tournament host Dunedin (10-5) and Calvary Christian (11-4).
The Falcons entered as winners of six of their last seven and continued that solid play against the Warriors.
Shortstop Trevor Jensen quickly got things going in the first by leading the game off with a base hit and stealing second after being caught off first by Calvary starter Collin Booten but then beating the throw from first baseman Grant McDaniel.
Justin Glover brought home Jensen for a 1-0 Dunedin lead with a groundout to second.
“He's been a huge sparkplug,” Falcons coach Ron Sexton said of Jensen. “He leads us in quality at-bats, he's a very smart baserunner and he's just that kind of player you want at the plate in any situation.”
The senior was at it again in the third, following Tim Luth's one-out double with a deep, RBI two-bagger to left.
Dunedin maintained its slim lead thanks to an error-free game in the field and clutch pitching in tight situations.
Starting pitcher Eric Sexton worked his way out of two-out jams with runners in scoring position in each of his three innings.
“He wasn't nearly as sharp as he had been,” Coach Sexton said of his son, who is about nine months removed from ligament-replacement surgery in his left elbow. “But as I told him when he came out, anytime you come off the mound without your best stuff and there's a zero on the board, I'll take that every time.”
Calvary manufactured its way onto the board in the fourth. Mark Coleman and Johnny Chiaramonte laid down back-to-back sacrifice bunts that scored Johnnie Schneider and cut Dunedin's lead in half, to 2-1.
That would be the only run Calvary would manage against Falcons reliever Ryan Deeley, though.
“Ryan Deeley, he wears a Superman shirt under his jersey each game and he was kind of like Superman for us,” Coach Sexton said of his junior righty. “He saved the day.”
Technically, he won the day for Dunedin. Deeley's four innings of one-run, four-hit ball earned him the victory instead of the lengthy save. “He probably deserved both,” Coach Sexton said.
Eric Sexton and Deeley combined to strand nine total Calvary runners on base as Warriors batters struggled to square up pitches when they needed to most.
Dunedin padded its lead to 4-1 with two runs in the fifth. Eric Sexton's bases-loaded chopper up the middle sailed over the outstretched glove of Calvary second baseman Schneider to drive in Aaron Sexton and Luth.
Luth and Eric Sexton each had two-hit nights for Dunedin and Schneider did the same for Calvary.
- CCC vs. Inspiration Academy (5 p.m.) Field 5
- Dunedin vs. Osceola (8 p.m.) Field 5
- Pinellas Park vs. Tampa Bay Christian (5 p.m.) Field 3
- Lakewood vs. River Ridge (8 p.m.) Field 3
- Calvary vs. Countryside (5 p.m.) Field 4
- Canterbury vs. Tarpon Springs (8 p.m.) Field 4
WEDNESDAY'S BOX SCORE:
Dun - 101 020 0 --- 4-7-0
Calv - 000 100 0 --- 1-7-2
WP – Ryan Deeley (2-0)
LP – Collin Booten (0-1)
Trevor Jensen – 2-for-3, 1 RBI, 1 R, 1 2B, 1 SB, 1 BB
Ryan Deeley – W, 4.0 IP, 1 R, 1 ER, 4 H, 2 K, 1 BB – 0-for-1
Eric Sexton – ND, 3.0 IP, 0 R, 3 H, 3 K, 3 BB – 1-for-3, 2 RBI, 1 BB
Tim Luth – 2-for-3, 2 R, 1 2B
Calvary Christian (11-4)
Johnnie Schneider – 2-for-3
Tommy Georgevich – 1-for-3, 1 BB
Jake Rothwell – ND, 3.2 IP, 2 R, 2 ER, 3 H, 4 K, 3 BB – 0-for-3