Through the first four games (the final was played late Friday evening), the teams had combined for 15 runs, with Lyman’s five-run “outburst” against Lake Mary on Wednesday afternoon accounting for a third of those scores.
Three pitchers have topped 10 strikeouts in a game, Springs’ Ben Nelson (13), Lyman’s Scott Allen (13) and Clapsaddle (11). Two pitchers, Oviedo’s Malcolm Clapsaddle and Lake Brantley’s Josh Tanski, flirted with perfection against Winter Springs. And one pitcher, Lyman’s Chris Gilmore has pitched in two games and picked up two wins.
“This time of year, all the hitting is there,” Lake Brantley coach Mike Smith said. “Usually, in the past, everybody has had at least one pitcher, but this year, everybody has had at least two or three pitchers, so it’s been a tremendous district this year with the pitching.”
Lyman coach Bob McCullough, in his 36th year at the helm of the Greyhounds, has never seen anything like it.
“Anybody can beat anybody,” McCullough said. “This is as even as I’ve ever seen this district.”
Smith’s Lake Brantley team, the defending Class 6A State Champions, and McCullough’s Lyman team were the big winners in district play and both will get to see what their pitching staffs can do in the regionals next week.
GILMORE SPARKS LYMAN WITH ARM AND BAT
For the third-seeded Greyhounds to get to the playoffs, a lot needed to go right.
On Tuesday afternoon, they got a sign that it would.
After substituting Gilmore to replace Allen, who had struck out 13, to start the top of eighth, McCullough found himself in a bind. Allen stayed in to play third, so Gilmore would have to enter the lineup and take his first hacks of the season, in the cleanup spot.
In the bottom of the eighth, after a pop out to third for the first out, Seminole’s Logan Riley committed a fielding error that put the potential winning run, Gyvan Delancer, on at first.
Allen strode to the plate, but after Delancer stole second, Seminole coach Mike Powers elected to intentionally walk Allen, bringing Gilmore to the dish.
Without an at bat on his record, Gilmore volunteered to give himself up.
“I asked coach if he wanted me to bunt,” Gilmore said, “so someone behind me could knock in the run.”
But McCullough gave Gilmore limited instructions:
“He said just hit away, but I had to take the first pitch,” Gilmore said. “He left it right outside and I just hit it through the hole.”
Gilmore’s single, between first and second, scored Delancer with the winning run and the Greyhounds were on to round two with a 3-2 victory. Gilmore picked up the win in relief of Allen.
After pitching just one inning against Seminole on Tuesday, Gilmore returned to the hill on Wednesday looking to send the Greyhounds to the playoffs.
He matched up with Lake Mary ace Jacob Knott, but it was Gilmore who played his cards to perfection.
The Lyman righthanded submariner pitched a complete game allowing just one run on four hits. He didn’t strike out a single batter, but got 16 ground ball outs, including a game-ending double play.
“My fastball was pretty much high all the time,” Gilmore said. “So I was throwing a lot of changeups, just trying to get the ball low and it really put me into a rhythm going into the late innings. My slider was also really good today and felt good.”
KNOTT HIS DAY
Gilmore didn’t have to take a turn-at-bat this time, as the Greyhounds were able to strike for four runs off Knott in the first four innings.
Knott only made it through 3-1/3 innings, allowing the four runs on five hits. He walked three and struck out only one.
“We were talking about how he was going to throw curveballs, before the game,” Lyman left fielder Gabe Padilla said. “All we saw was fastballs and we said ‘fastballs? Why not jump on them?’“
Knott was relieved by the Rams other ace, Zach Haile. Haile pitched 3 2/3 innings in relief and allowed only one run and one hit, though he did hit three batters.
But Lyman’s bats had already done too much damage for the Rams to get back in it.
NELSON OUTDUELS CLAPSADDLE
On Monday night, with their high-school careers on the line, Oviedo’s Malcolm Clapsaddle and Ben Nelson matched up in a classic pitcher’s duel. The two righties matched zeroes for the first seven innings before Clapsaddle took the hill for extra innings in the eighth. With two on and two out, Vinnie Leuzzi poked a two-run single the other way to left, scoring Kevin Odom and Matt Zettler. Nelson returned for the eighth and retired the Lions in order for his fifth win of the season.
“I wasn’t worried about everything else. I just went out there and tried to pitch my game,” Nelson said. “I threw all four of my pitches and I could throw pretty much most of them for strikes. My only problem was with my changeup but I had them off balance with my curveball and my slider all night.”
The Winter Springs senior, who will do his mound work for the Naval Academy next season, allowed only six base runners in his eight innings. He walked one and struck out 13.
“Every time he toes the rubber, he gives us a chance to win,” Perez said. “It doesn’t matter who the opponent is. He’s got a giant heart, extreme discipline and focus. That’s why he’s going to the Naval Academy. There’s not much you can say. It was just an incredible pitching performance.”
Equally brilliant through seven was Clapsaddle. The Georgia-bound senior carried a perfect game into the sixth, before the first hitter reached, after striking out, on a wild pitch. Clapsaddle still hadn’t allowed a hit when Nelson stepped up to leadoff the seventh and chopped one over the third baseman’s head.
In all, Clapsaddle pitched eight innings and allowed two runs on three hits. He didn’t issue a walk and struck out 11, but ended up the hard luck loser in his final high school start.
“It was outstanding,” Oviedo baseball coach Eric Morgan said. “He was throwing all the right pitches in all the right sequences.”
TANKSI QUIETS SPRINGS
With several strong pitching performances already in the books, Josh Tanski went ahead and saved one of the best for last on Wednesday night.
Tanski was nothing sort of marvelous, retiring 21 of the 23 batters he faced and allowing only one hit, a grounder by Taylor Snipes that caromed off the first base bag with two out in the third as the Lake Brantley Patriots cruised into the playoffs with a 2-0 victory.
“My fastball was working pretty good,” Tanski said. “I was just locating my pitches. My curveball was shaky in the first couple innings, but I found it around the fourth inning and had all my pitches working and hitting my spots, that’s what did it good for me.”
The only other runner that reached base on Tanski did so on a fielding error by first baseman Craig Veech with two out in the 7th.
But with the tying run at the plate, Tanski got a ground ball to second. Second baseman Eric Sams flipped the grounder to Nick Franklin covering the bag and the Patriots were on to the playoffs. It was one of eight ground balls that Tanski induced to his middle infielders.
“We know it’s coming,” Franklin said. “You have to be ready every pitch. You only have six seconds. Focus for those six seconds and get the job done. With the limited amount of runs we had tonight, you have to back him up.”
Franklin also stroked one of the few big hits that the Pats had off the Winter Springs combination of John Sebelle and Billy Tolle. The senior shortstop led off the first inning with a double into the left-center field gap and scored on a single by Sams. Sams also doubled and scored in the sixth on a single by left fielder Torrey Roberts.
Despite the pitching prowess displayed over the first two days, two long balls left Sanford Memorial Stadium as well.
On Tuesday, Seminole catcher Jose Bernacet blasted a dinger to left-center in the fifth off Scott Allen to tie the score at two in the Noles’ quarterfinal loss to Lyman.
“That was Jose’s first home run in high school,” Seminole coach Mike Powers said. “He really hit the ball. The ball happened to be there and he hit the ball out of the park. It was ripped.”
On Wednesday it was a Lyman player going yard when Gabe Padilla took Lake Mary’s Jacob Knott deep for a two-run homer that extended the Greyhounds lead to 4-0, in their 5-1 win.
“It was an 0-2 fastball and I just saw it right there and took it for a ride,” Padilla said. “It felt really good.”