By STEVE JACKSON
Against all odds, the Lennard Longhorns bombed Bloomingdale High last week to advance to the Florida state regional playoffs. Now, the Horns needed another upset or two to continue in the regionals or end the season. All of the other four high school baseball teams in the South Shore concluded their seasons with opening round losses in their district playoffs two weeks ago.
Having lost twice to the district champs, the Bloomingdale Bulls, Lennard was invited to the regionals. The problem was the invite was to face the 17-9 Bulls, a team that beat Lennard twice, once in the regular season and a second time two weeks ago for the 6A-District 11 championship. This third time was also at the Bulls home diamond at Valrico.
The odds did not get the best of Lennard Coach Victor Martinez. The Horns were ready and threw their best shot at Bloomingdale. Behind sterling left-handed starting pitcher Zack Bird and relief pitcher Carter Payne, Lennard polished off Bloomingdale. The Lennard offense also came to life. Long two-run home runs over the center field fence in the 4th inning by sophomore RJ Torres and senior Alex Brazer sparked the Horns 11-0 demolishing of Bloomingdale and set the stage for Lennard to enter the regionals.
The opening round match-up with awesome 26-2 Sickles Gryphons was postponed due to rain in Tampa last Saturday evening. That win or go home game was played Monday evening, May 15, at Sickles High, and the Gryphons advanced to the next round Tuesday, May 16, versus the powerful 22-6 Gaither Cowboys. Wins in both regional contests early this week would have propelled Lennard to the Class 6A-Region 3 Semifinals May 23 in Ft. Myers. The regional championship game is set for the winners on May 24, also in Hammond Stadium in Ft. Myers.
The Horns route to the regionals went right through Bloomingdale. Lennard got on the board first. Star Horns catcher freshman Mikie Locke knocked in Lennard’s inital run in the top of the first. Then all the insurance the Horns would need was provided by the big bats of Brazer and Torres with blasts over the wall. Torres wound up with three hits as he slugged a triple along with his homer. Senior Trey Miranda was 2/4 and an RBI. Brazer swiped a pair of bases and scored a run in going 1/2. Locke went 2/2, two runs and an RBI. Consistent senior Logan Covey was 1/1 and scored twice. Tim Mendizabal had a hit, a run and an RBI. Junior Matthew Counts garnered 2/5 and a RBI. Completing the offensive onslaught, senior Joseph Rivera slashed 1/2. In the field, Lennard played errorless ball behind a pair of dominant hurlers. The stunning victory put Lennard at 18-9.