6A-10 BASEBALL: Tarpon eliminated by Sunlake
Hits were at a premium Tuesday night during the Class 6A District 10 quarterfinal between No. 4 Sunlake and No. 5 Tarpon Springs.
Sunlake's David Castillo took a no-hitter into the sixth and Tarpon Springs' Ethan Lichtenberg scattered four hits through six, but it was the Seahawks offense that better converted its limited opportunities into runs.
Sunlake (12-12) advanced into tomorrow night's semifinal showdown with top-seeded Land O' Lakes by dispatching of the Spongers, 2-1.
“We beat them twice this year and we were coming out ready to go,” said first baseman Zac Scranton, who pushed in the game-winning run in the bottom of the sixth. “We executed everything correctly and came out on top.”
After Sunlake's Austin Howard sent a two-out RBI single down the right-field line in the second to put the Seahawks up early, 1-0, it appeared that may be all the help Castillo would need despite not having his best stuff.
“I really didn't feel good tonight,” the junior said of his overall command. “I was just trying to throw strikes and get batters out. I have faith in my defense and they played well.”
Despite failing to record a base hit against Castillo through five frames, Tarpon Springs managed to pressure him by drawing three free passes over that span.
The Spongers (8-13) nearly tied the game at 1-1 in the third without getting a hit. Max Romanski led off by getting hit and was sacrifice bunted to second by Billy Ross. Romanski advanced to third on a passed ball and Shane Ludlow gave the Spongers runners at the corners by taking ball four, but Castillo recovered and struck out Marco Karay to end the threat.
Castillo's no-hit bid officially ended after 5 2/3 innings when Tarpon Springs shortstop Caleb Koulianos sent a two-out line drive into center field in the Spongers' game-tying sixth inning. Catcher Kyle Johnson followed with a near identical hit up the middle and first baseman Eric Kehoe's ground-ball single past the diving glove of Sunlake shortstop Colton King plated Koulianos from second. Tarpon Springs then loaded up the bases but could not get another two-out run across home plate against Castillo.
It didn't take long for Sunlake to regroup after surrendering their slim advantage. Zac Howard (2-for-3) led off the home half of the sixth with a single, stole second and was bunted to third by Castillo. The sacrifice bunt was the second of the game for Castillo.
With only one down, Scranton notched the eventual game-winner against a pulled-in Tarpon Springs infield. Scranton squared to bunt, then pulled back and slashed a ground ball up the middle that allowed Howard to score without a throw. Romanski did a good job at second to dive to his right and make the play at first, but the damage had been done.
The Spongers didn't go down without a fight in the seventh against Sunlake closer Ryan Talbut.
Ludlow kept the game going with a two-out single up the middle and stole second to give Tarpon Springs a fighting chance. Karay then followed with a chopper to the right of Scranton at first that the senior could not handle cleanly, putting Spongers at the corners with two outs and Koulianos at the plate. The three-hole hitter got bat on ball but chopped his 2-2 offering back to Talbut at the mound to end the game.
Sunlake's next task will be district No. 1 seed Land O' Lakes, a team that went 8-0 in league play this year. Despite being 6A-10's two lowest seeded teams, Sunland and Tarpon Springs actually gave Land O' Lakes four of their toughest district games of the year.
“We're ready for Land O' Lakes,” Scranton said of the challenge. “We're coming for them. We lost two three-run ball games, so we know we can do it.”
That game will be played at Mitchell High School at 4:30 p.m. tomorrow night, followed by No. 2 Mitchell and No. 3 River Ridge playing in the other semifinal at 7:30.
TS - 000 001 0 --- 1-4-0SL - 010 001 x --- 1-4-1
WP – David CastilloLP – Ethan LichtenbergS - Ryan Talburt