By STEVE JACKSON
The Lennard Longhorns have shown in the early going of the baseball season that, among the five high school South Shore baseball teams, it is the team to beat. Why? Because it is an old and true adage that good pitching beats hitting. And even though the Longhorns have only completed —and won—two games by the first Monday of this week, something is obvious: Lennard has better pitching one, two and three than the Horns had last year. The Horns had a top trio to throw last season. Now, in 2023, they have the same three hurlers, only every aspect of the top three pitchers is improved.
Lennard Head Coach Jake Martinez can pick almost randomly from his pitching staff. Any one of the three he selects to tow the rubber, Coach Martinez will know he is getting quality and experienced pitching. Last season it was current junior Zack Bird whose dependable relief pitching could be counted on by the Lennard team. Now, Bird has been shifted to a starting role. His first outing last week was fantastic. The talented lefty sliced Spoto up one side and down the other in a 4-0 Lennard shutout win over Spoto. The Spartans managed only two hits in six innings off Bird. The dominating junior walked none and struck out 12 Spartans. Freshman Talan Miranda showed his potential to take over the number one bullpen role. The Horns Miranda threw the final inning, coughing up a Spoto hit but retained the shutout. Bird was selected the Player of the Game for his mound work.
To get their second win in as many games, the Longhorns provided plenty of clutch scoring against Spoto. Senior Tyler Ewell banged out a two for three night at the plate and two RBIs. Senior Joseph Rivera was one for three with an RBI. Senior Logan Covey produced one for four offensively with a run scored. The other run was driven home by soph RJ Torres. Frosh catcher Mickie Locke was a perfect three for three at the dish.
To pick up the win on opening night earlier in the week, Lennard notched top performances from its two top senior pitchers, Jackson Mueller and Carter Payne. Mueller went five innings and turned over the last two frames to Payne who continued to throttle the Jefferson Dragons, a top-calibre ball club. Lennard hit for all its scoring in the fourth inning with Horns senior Trey Miranda, junior Matthew Counts and Logan Covey banging out RBI hits for the Horns’ three runs. Mueller yielded only two hits in five innings. Payne completed the win, giving up zero hits and an earned run by the Dragons.
This week Lennard tangles with 2-0 Plant City at Ruskin Tuesday. Hillsborough High is set for Lennard in Tampa March 2.
Two more road games follow. Newsome at 1-1 hosts Lennard March 7. A jaunt to Dover to play Strawberry Crest is on the schedule for March 9.
In other diamond action this week, 1-1 Riverview hosted 1-1 Newsome Feb. 28. A trip to play 0-2 Robinson in Tampa follows March 2 at 7 p.m. Next Tuesday the Sharks visit Sumner. Then Saturday, March 11, at 1 p.m. Riverview takes on East Bay in the Saladino Tourney.
The East Bay Indians took a 0-2 record into this early week’s game versus Sumner at East Bay. Blake visits EB March 2, and a visit to Brandon is set for March 8. The Indians jump in the Saladino Tourney versus Riverview at 1 p.m. Saturday, March 11.
Spoto is still looking for that second win after splitting its two games. After beating Middleton 11-2 to open the season, Spoto could not handle Lennard, losing 4-0 last week. On Feb. 28 the Spartans hosted 1-1 Durant. A trip to Armwood is set for March 2. Then the Spartans host Bloomingdale on March 7 and on March 9 entertain Freedom High. Spoto opens at the Saladino Tourney with Tampa Bay Tech at 10 a.m. March 11.
The Sumner Stingrays walloped King 12-1 to open the season last week. Then the ‘Rays were beat by Bloomingdale 6-1 last Friday. Sumner had a game with rival East Bay High early this week. Then Sumner plays March 2 at Sumner against Tampa Bay Tech and also at home versus Riverview March 7. A visit to play Alonso is set for March 9, and Sumner opens the Saladino Tourney with Seffner Christian at 4 p.m., March 11.