By STEVE JACKSON
Lennard took care of two neighboring high school baseball rivals in the South Shore last week behind its hot bats and strong arms. Now, Coach Victor Martinez’ Horns carry an improved 4-5 record and winning streak into three tough games in a homestand this week. First up are the Riverview Sharks in a mid-week game at the corral. The 11-3 Durant Cougars come calling April 1 at 7 p.m. Then the 13-2 Hillsborough Terriers visit Ruskin for a 1 p.m. showdown with Lennard.
In what could be considered a mild upset, Lennard used two sophomore hurlers to get the best of East Bay last Friday 4-0, on the Longhorns’ diamond. The Horns’ Jack Mueller and Carter Payne combined to shut out the Indians on two hits. Meanwhile, Lennard banged out 10 hits, scoring two in the bottom of the first and adding two more runs in the 5th to seal the win.
Earlier in the week, Sumner came to Ruskin with ex-Lennard Kennedy Duran at the helm as head coach. However, his former protégé and now Lennard head coach, Victor Martinez, provided a rude welcoming party for Duran, demolishing Sumner 12-1 in a mercy-rule game.
With Payne and Mueller exhibiting a strong one-two punch on the mound, Lennard is getting timely hitting from soph Alex Brazer, senior Francisco Alianz, junior Aaron McClain and senior Jaylin Tose — all hitting above .300.
Sumner bounced back after the Lennard loss last week to dispose of the visiting Middleton Tigers 5-2. Standing 2-5 overall but 2-1 in 5A-D8 play, Duran’s Stingrays continue to play competitively despite no seniors.
Sumner has plenty of business to tend to immediately, but faces D8 leader Brandon, 4-1 in district and 6-9 overall, April 12 on Sumner’s home diamond. Brandon owns one win over Sumner already.
In the win over Middleton last week, the Stingrays received offensive support from Gabriel Mangual who knocked home two runs and scored a run on a 2-for-3 day. Also contributing with the stick were Manny Ramos with a hit and two RBI and Jason Rivera with a hit and a run. Splitting mound chores for Duran were Travis Browning, Joe Cabrales and Jayden Brown. Brown went 5.2 superb innings and gave up two hits, one earned run, three walks, and whiffed eight Tigers.
This week Sumner went up against 1-9 Spoto in Tuesday action at Sumner, followed by an April 1 visit to powerhouse 12-3 Wharton next week. Robinson visits Sumner April 6, and a trip to Blake April 8 closes out the Rays week.
Coach Cody Crouse and his East Bay Indians’ record fell to 10-5 last week after a rout of Middleton and a stinging loss 4-0 at Lennard last Friday. The Indians hosted this week 9-4 Sickles March 30. After that, East Bay travels to 10-5 Bloomingdale April 1. The Indians return home to Big Bend Road to face 6-9 Brandon April 6.
The Indians’ bats were booming against Middleton. Alek Mangual went 2-for-3 with two RBI. Jeremy Galen also had a pair of hits and a pair of RBI. The most productive bat was swung by Deshaun Manuel with a perfect night. Manuel was 3-for-3 and knocked in four runs. The Indians trio of Andrew Pierce, Manny Dooley and Tanner Elizondo tamed the Tigers at the plate. However, East Bay could not find adequate offense or sufficient pitching in the subsequent 4-0 loss at Lennard last Friday night.
The Riverview Sharks improved their worksheet to 6-8 last week with wins over hapless Middleton, 13-1, and Newsome, 4-1, after dropping an early-week game versus rampaging Wharton, 13-2.
The Sharks, coached by Jason Smith, hope to add at least two more wins this week. The winless 0-9 Blake Yellowjackets visited Boyette Road for Riverview Administrative-Teacher Night in an early-week game. Two road games complete this week for Riverview. First, a visit to improving Lennard at mid-week, Then an April 1 date at Spoto. Smith is looking for Nolan Lalond to continue his torrid hitting, supported mainly by Caden Santucci, Kipp Kochera, Christian Tavarez, Farah Castillo and Jonathan Smith among other batsmen. On the mound, the mainstays for the Sharks have been Nate Hook, Kochera and Ronnie Brandon.
Spoto is 1-9 under Coach Mike Boyd. The sports-challenged Spartans continue to sputter on both offense and defense. The only Spartan victory came over Blake, 7-6, several weeks ago. Spoto took it on the chin last week, finding it difficult to come up with runs and to stop the opponents from piling up the runs. In early-week play, Plant City coasted to a 13-3 victory. Spoto followed that loss by dropping a one-sided 10-1 game to Brandon. For the season, the Spartans are batting a dismal .142 as a team and have scored only 29 runs. On the other side of the ledger, opponents have batted .302 against Spoto and scored 92 runs. One of Spoto’s few shining lights has been freshman Peyton Nise, who leads the Spartans at the plate with a .276 average.
This week a Spoto rematch with upstart Sumner was set for early-week action. Previously, Sumner topped Spoto 10-4. The Spartans are considerable underdogs against Spoto in Riverview April 1 and also against Tampa Bay Tech in Tampa April 6.