TAMPA – A leadoff triple by Newsome’s Auston Spires in the bottom of the eighth had disaster just 90 feet away, but the Sickles coaching staff and pitcher Chase Centala quelled the storm, kept the game tied and the Gryphons clawed out two runs with two outs in their ensuing at-bats and held on for a 3-1, nine-inning win.
Sickles (7-1) played the only way it could in the bottom half of the eighth with the winning run standing on third after Spires crushed a ball to the center field wall. The Gryphons intentionally walked the bases loaded, then moved in a fifth infielder and made the out at home on a chopper to short, then got the friendliest of shallow pops to center preventing a tag-up, before Centala did his part with a big strikeout to keep things at a draw.
“Chase is only a sophomore, but his stuff plays like an upper-classmen,” Sickles head coach Eric Luksis said. “He just shows a lot of poise out there and he’s confident in his stuff.”
“They get that leadoff triple, then we start playing around a little bit with things and hope for the best. But he just stayed calm and collected and gets exactly what we needed. He truly acted like a leader today.”
The momentum shift seemed needling toward Sickles, but in the top of the ninth saw two outs on two pitches by Gryphons hitters. Junior Dylan Eskew got things going from there with a liner single to left, before a Danny Bernstein single plated the eventual decider, and Connor McTeer doubled in courtesy runner Edward Gowski (running for the catcher Bernstein).
“Dylan did a great job getting on, then Danny did a great job driving him in,” said McTeer, who also had a single in the game. “My job there was to shorten up and get us an extra security run for Chase to go out and shut it down for us.”
Eskew made the start on the mound for Sickles striking out seven and allowing one run on five Newsome hits, before turning things over to Centala, who worked the final four, shutout innings, allowing four hits and striking out four. Centala, who usually starts for Sickles said there really wasn’t much of a change in the game plan entering as a reliever in the sixth.
“The way I try to pitch every time is to pitch like it’s a tie game,” Centala said. “I try to do my best every time, no matter the situation.”
Both teams struggled driving in runs – each leaving 13 runners left on in the game.
Newsome (5-3) got on the board early as Zach Benson walked, moved to second on a Josh Costlow single, then stole third and scored on a wild pitch in the first. Costlow was 3-for-5 on the day, while Spires and Tyler McKenna each had two hits.
For Sickles (2-0 in Saladino pool-play), pitching for the rest of the tournament will be a challenge with its top two starters having reached their pitch total for the remainder of the week. So it’s on the Gryphons’ offense to step up with a game against a tough Wharton team standing in the way of quarterfinal advancement.
“I think the bats are going to have to heat up a little bit more than they did today for us to continue,” McTeer said. “We really didn’t get hot until the last inning, so we are going to have to jump on pitchers early and help out our other pitchers the rest of the way.”