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Plant City Observer Thursday, May 24, 2018 5 months ago

Charging into states

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The Strawberry Crest baseball team earned its first-ever state Final Four berth Tuesday night.
by: Justin Kline Sports/Associate Editor

Strawberry Crest's baseball team continues to make history.

This season saw the program's first district and regional championship wins and, next weekend, will include the first-ever appearance in the FHSAA state Final Four series in Fort Myers.

The Chargers hosted the Wharton Wildcats in last week's 8A-Region 1 semifinal and picked up a come-from-behind 3-2 win over their district rivals. Down 2-0 after Zach Ehrhard and Dylan McDonald put Wharton ahead in the first inning, Crest was able to get on the scoreboard in the bottom of the second when Ben Pues scored Ryan Dell. Jacob Heath tied the game at 2-2 shortly afterward, driving in Pues with his own RBI.

Neither team could get much offense going until the bottom of the fifth, when Crest took the lead for good thanks to Joey Parrillo’s baserunning and a mistake by Wharton reliever Steven Hotinski. Parrillo reached base on a leadoff walk, took second base with Tanner Kelley at bat and reached third on a botched pickoff attempt. Hotinski came in to pitch for the Wildcats at this time and, after inducing a Kelley groundout, Parrillo was able to score on a balk with Derek Barone batting. The Chargers then loaded the bases with a 3-2 lead and two outs, but Hotinski was able to get Heath out to end the inning.

Damien Torres, who relieved pitcher Brent May in the top of the fifth inning, kept Wharton at bay and got the win in just over two innings of work.

With the win, Crest advanced to Tuesday's regional final at Fleming Island. The Chargers and Golden Eagles battled for nine innings, neither side scoring until Crest's bats came alive in the final frame. Dell reached base after a one-out single and successfully stole second, then got to third base on Pues's grounder. Pues stole second with Barone at bat and Barone followed up with the game-winning two-RBI double. Torres, who entered the game in the sixth inning in relief of May, was able to close out the game with one man on base.

Crest will face the winner of Wednesday's Plant-Sarasota game at 10 a.m. June 1 at Hammond Stadium, 14100 Ben C. Pratt Six Mile Cypress Parkway, Fort Myers.

Justin Kline is the Sports/Associate Editor at the Plant City Observer. He has been covering all things sports-related in the Winter Strawberry Capital of the World since 2013.

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