By STEVE JACKSON
South Shore baseball gets back into regular season action this week with the East Bay Indians of Coach Cody Crouse having established itself as one of the top diamond teams in this neck of the woods. East Bay fattened its record in the Saladino Tourney last week. The Indians used a four-run top of the 4th to breeze past King 7-2 after a 10-7 tourney loss to Hillsborough the previous day.
The Indians, playing in 6A-D10, faced 3-6 Middleton at Tampa in an early-week game. Then one of the South Shore’s hottest high school rivalries sees 3-5 Lennard Longhorns hosting the Indians under the Friday night lights at 7 p.m. March 26. After sending a predominantly senior-batting order with five players batting over .300 to the plate against the pair of teams with losing records this week, the Indians’ challenges become tougher next week. East Bay has back-to-back road games against 8-2 Sickles March 30 and 9-4 Bloomingdale April 1. Coach Crouse will continue to look to soph Andrew Pierce as his top hurler. Other East Bay mound support comes from three seniors: Riley Linne, Jeremy Galen and Ethan Sillart. At the plate, senior Hans Walker leads the Indians in RBIs with eight. A junior, Tate Gran, and four seniors, Linne, Galen, Deshaun Manuel and Carlos Campos, are all hitting over a .300 clip.
In the recently-concluded annual Saladino Tourney, Lennard won 6-5 over Plant City before dropping its final tourney game 21-11 to Sickles on March 17. Coach Victor Martinez’ 3-5 Horns now face a crucial three-game home stand in his first year as head coach. His former boss, Sumner Coach Kennedy Duran, came back to the corral with his Sumner team March 23. Following that, offensive and pitching dynamo East Bay visits Ruskin March 26 at 7 pm. Then, March 31 brings Riverview to the Lennard diamond for an evening game.
The overall champ of the Saladino Tourney was the Jesuit Tigers who routed Durant 10-2. Another South Shore entrant in the Saladino was Riverview. Coach Jason Smith’s Sharks team continued to struggle. After beating Sumner on March 11, the Sharks fell on hard times, losing four in a row. With a season mark at 4-7 and its hitting and pitching gone South, Riverview hopes to get back on the winning trail this week and next. First up was tough opponent 10-3 Wharton in an early-week home game. This weekend, Riverview goes to Newsome Friday night and to Middleton Saturday morning. A couple of neighboring rivalries next week follow a visit from Blake on Tuesday. On March 31 the Sharks tangle with the Longhorns in Ruskin. The next evening calls for Riverview visiting Spoto April 1.
The Spoto Spartans are also having a tough time finding another victory after beating Blake in early March. Following a road game earlier this week, Coach Mike Boyd’s team hosts Brandon March 25, and then Riverview comes calling April 1. A freshman Peyton Nise continues to provide spark at the plate and on the mound for 1-7 Spoto.
After a long layoff, new high school Sumner faces two opponents in 5A-D8. First, however, is a big clash on March 23 in Ruskin. The Stingrays first–year coach, Kennedy Duran, took his Sumner team to Lennard for his first visit since ending his 15-year tenure at Lennard. Following that March 23 game, Sumner hosts Middleton March 26. Then Spoto and its losing record visit Sumner March 30. After an April 1 visit to Wharton, the Stingrays return home to face Robinson April 6.