A cold wind blowing in from left field turned Tuesday night’s rivalry game between Florida High and host John Paul II into a pitcher’s duel.
With fly balls being held up in the stiff breeze, the Seminoles built a lead with a little small ball. But when the Panthers were afforded an opportunity to pounce, they did.
John Paul II parlayed five walks and a pair of two-out RBI hits into a five-run fifth inning, rallying past Florida High for a 6-2 victory.
“Our pitching was good tonight,” Panthers coack Ken Silvestri said. “It kept them off-balance and allowed us a chance to do a few things. When you allow two runs, your pitchers throws strikes all day and you don’t make any errors, you cause them to generate something. We only needed one big inning, and that was the story of the game.”
Florida High (11-5) scored in the top of the first and the top of the fifth on runs by leadoff hitter Jay Robinson, who used his speed to navigate the base paths and score without the benefit of a hit. And Robinson on the mound proved effective through four innings for the Seminoles, allowing only one soft hit, which was his only base runner allowed in the time frame.
“You don’t have to be perfect to win a baseball game, you just have to make one less mistake than your opponent,” Silvestri said. “A lot of times that’s the difference when your pitchers are throwing strikes and keeping you in the game.”
And in the bottom of the fifth, Robinson (2-1) labored, loading the bases and getting two outs before a bang-bang play at first on a ground ball yielded an RBI infield hit to Panthers two-hole hitter Nick Piazza.
Marshall Moyle followed with a two-run double into the gap, which fell to the ground after being overplayed in the air by Florida High’s right-fielder.
“We just kind of grinded it out,” Moyle said. “The bats weren’t working the first half of the game. We got a little momentum, started hitting the ball, they made a few errors and it went our way.
“We kind of got a little lucky. It’s a big turning point to go up 4-2 and then get a few more runs the way we were pitching.”
Chad Newell started for JPII (6-6) and pitched four strong innings and limited damage with a left-handed pickoff move that removed two would-be base runners for the Seminoles.
Piazza came on in relief and shut the door on Florida High to pick up the win and run his record to 2-1. John Connor added a hit for the Panthers and scored two runs.
Dennis Ratliff and Rudy Campbell each went 2 for 3 for the Seminoles.
“You get a guy on with no outs and then he gets picked off, that kind of changes your whole offensive strategy,” Florida High coach John Hollenbeck said. “We got a couple runs early … we were just a little inconsistent. We need to bounce back off this. You can’t take any opponent lightly in the game of baseball.”