PALM HARBOR – Thursday was a little rough at Palm Harbor University.

The Hurricanes entered their afternoon game against Newsome with the opportunity to not only lock up second place in the Class 9A District 8 standings, but to secure homefield advantage against the Wolves when they meet in a league semifinal May 7.

PHU came up empty on both fronts.

Thursday’s 3-2 loss leaves PHU and Newsome with similar 3-3 district records. Immediately after the game, coaches and team captains met at home plate for a coin toss that would determine who gets to host the district semifinal.

Newsome picked tails and tails it was.

Rather that staying home on May 7, PHU will pack up the bus and make the hour and a half, east-southeast drive deep into Hillsborough County.

“Either way it’s going to be a 4 o’clock game,” PHU coach Tom Hilbert said after a frustrating day on the diamond. “So we’ve just got to get on a bus and go over there in a couple weeks.

“You’ve got to make one more play than the other guys do. We didn’t tonight and they did. Give them credit.”

Newsome struck first and jumped out to a 3-0 lead after two and a half innings of play. Wolves catcher Tyler McKenna extended the lead to 3-0 in the top of the third by pounding a solo home run through the wind and over the right field wall.

PHU responded to McKenna’s blast in the home half after Mitch Farris led off with a double and Hunter Mink delivered an RBI two-bagger to left-center three batters later.

The Hurricanes put at least one runner on base every inning, thanks in part to six walks, but managed just five total hits. That limited production resulted a second-inning unearned run being the ’Canes second and final run of the day.

Newsome starter Zach DeVito, a junior committed to Tulane, managed to work his way around surrendering five hits and four walks over five innings, earning the win in the process. Senior Austin Johnson pitched two hitless, scoreless innings to earn the save.

DeVito and PHU starter Andy Booth ended their outings by escaping bases-loaded jams in both halves of the fifth inning. Booth gave up three runs, two earned, on seven hits and two walks over five innings, striking out five. Nick Ficarrotta kept Newsome off the board for the final two frames.

Leaving the bases loaded in the fifth was tough, but a controversial decision in the sixth aggravated the PHU bench even more. After Farris drew a one-out walk, junior Dustin Low sent a ground ball to third baseman Jack Tomich. The Wolves attempted to swing it around the horn for a 5-4-3 double play but the throw from second to first was not in time. The Newsome dugout did not like Farris’s slide into second, arguing he popped up into second baseman Cade Afeld.

The umpires met between home and the mound and ruled on the side of Newsome, calling Low out at first and ending the inning.

“I don’t think they needed to talk about it,” Hilbert said after the game. “Just make the call. If you think he slid past the bag or popped up, make the call from the get-go. That’s his job to make that call and I just think it needs to be done right away.”

Tanner Mink led off the seventh with a four-pitch walk but he didn’t advance beyond second base.

PHU finishes up its week Saturday afternoon by hosting Sarasota High at 1 p.m.

Newsome is off until Tuesday when it heads to Leto High.


New – 111 000 0 --- 3-7-2

PHU – 001 100 0 --- 2-5-2

WP – Zach DeVito (4-0)

LP – Andy Booth

S – Austin Johnson (6)


Newsome (13-6, 3-3)

Zach DeVito – Win 5.0 IP, 2 R, 1 ER, 5 H, 4 BB, 2 K

Tyler McKenna – 1-for-3, HR, RBI, R, BB

Fulton Lockhart – 2-for-2, 2B, RBI, Sac Bunt

Austin Johnson – Save 2.0 IP, 0 R, 0 H, 2 BB

Palm Harbor University (11-9, 3-3)

Nick Ficarrotta – 3-for-3, R – 2.0 IP, 0 R, 0 H, 1 BB, 1 K

Hunter Mink – 1-for-3, 2B, RBI, BB

Andy Booth – Loss 5.0 IP, 3 R, 2 ER, 7 H, 2 BB, 5 K

Tanner Mink – 0-for-0, 4 BB