By STEVE JACKSON
Coach Kennedy Duran’s 4-0 overall, 2-0 district Lennard Longhorns continue to shine in the early season on the diamond. After breaking out the bats mixed with great pitching to coast to big wins in the first two games, Lennard resorted to timely hitting combined with continued great pitching to remain undefeated after four games. Next up for the Longhorns are away games with Jefferson on March 14 and on March 18 against Carrollwood Day of Tampa in the Saladino Tournament. The Horns visit rival East Bay for a March 26 game at 7 p.m. Then it’s back to the friendly confines of Longhorn Stadium for a big District 9 game with Brandon at 7 p.m. March 28.
Horn hurler Yazael Nuñez provided the fourth straight mound gem for Lennard in an important district win on March 7 at home. Nuñez utilized a sharp-breaking curve ball to fan 14 as Lennard stymied Armwood 6-1 with a late sixth-inning rally.
Armwood jumped out to an early 1-0 lead in the top of the first and threatened to knock Lennard out of the unbeaten ranks in a pitchers’ duel. The game was tied at one with the Longhorns batting in the bottom of the sixth when Francisco Alaniz drew a walk, scoring one run. Then came the rest of a 5-run inning.
Nuñez pitched Lennard to victory. He lasted the full seven innings, allowing four hits and one run while striking out 14, a career-high, and walking none in the complete game victory.
Armwood jumped out to a lead in the first as Trevor Finan doubled to the corner wall in left, scoring Tyler Castelli. It was Nuñez’ only blemish of his outing, while his curveball was nearly untouchable as he struck out Hawk after Hawk.
In the telltale sixth, with two outs, a throwing error by the Armwood second baseman allowed Gabe Mangual and Francisco Alaniz to come home, which pushed Lennard into the lead. Adrian Muñoz doubled home Duece Waller. In the next at-bat, Alex Mangual delivered the final blow with a two-run single to score Miguel Figueroa and Muñoz. All of that offense came off of a dropped third strike that sparked a two-out rally.
“That’s not one of those innings you plan for, I love my team’s ‘never give up attitude,’” Duran said.
Just two days earlier on the road in Bradenton, the Longhorns got another strong pitching performance, this one from big Edward Tarrant. The Longhorns opened up the scoring in the first inning when Tarrant singled on a 2-0 count, scoring one run. In the nail-biting win over Braden River, the District 7 champs for the past two years, Lennard grabbed the lead in the sixth inning. The game was tied at one with the Longhorns batting in the top of the sixth when Seth Gingrich drew a walk, scoring one run.
The pitching was strong on both sides, but Lennard senior Tarrant was superior. Tarrant strong-armed Braden River by striking out 12 Pirates over five innings worked.
Tarrant earned the win for Lennard. He surrendered one run on two hits. Hayden Hensley and Nuñez entered the game out of the bullpen and helped to close out in relief. Nuñez recorded the last three outs to earn the save.
Gingrich, Tarrant, Levi Montéro and Hensley each managed one hit to lead Lennard. The big blow came in the 6th inning with Hensley coming through with a clutch 2-out RBI single to give Lennard an insurance run.