After working five solid innings on the mound, Plant City junior Jarod Wingo tied the game with his bat in the seventh and scored the eventual deciding run. (813Preps file photo)

By Nick Nahas

VALRICO – Jarod Wingo has been a key to the Plant City Raiders success all season long, and the junior was clutch again against Bloomingdale, both on the mound and at the plate in a pivotal Class 8A-District 6 showdown. He pitched five innings, allowing just one run on two walks, with seven strikeouts.

Wingo kept his team in the game, pounding the strike zone while giving up just two hits. And late with the game on the line in the seventh, he stepped up at the plate driving in the tying run, and scored the eventual game-winner on a Cade Shissler sac fly as the Raiders claimed a 2-1 win.

Raiders junior Jarod Wingo
(Photo courtesy of Nick Nahas)

Wingo was locked in a pitcher’s duel with Bloomingdale senior Nico Saladino until the Bulls drew first blood in the home third on a base hit by Brock Wilken that scored pinch runner Donovan Dubuisson from second base. Dominic Gonnella was thrown out at the plate on the same play, keeping the lead at one.

It was the only real trouble Wingo ever faced, allowing just two hits in five innings of work.

“His velocity was there and we mixed in some curve balls late in the game, and that’s what Wingo does, he just competes and we are never out of it with him on the mound,” said Plant City Head Coach Mike Fryrear.

The Raiders had a great chance to take the lead in the top of the sixth, drawing a lead-off walk by Chris Rodriguez, followed by a ground ball base hit by Parker Messick that went in between the third basemen and shortstop. Cole Cothren walked to load the bases. Saladino was taken out of the game and Riley Moore came in relief to face Hunter Emerine with a 3-0 count. Moore came back to strike out Emerine, and then induced a ground ball double-play from Tyler Dowdy.

Things were looking bleak for the Raiders going into the 7th inning, down 1-0 after squandering the bases loaded opportunity the previous inning and with their 7-8-9 hitters coming up. Williams led off the inning with a hit-by-pitch, setting the table for Wingo, who came through again for his team.

“My approach was to hit the ball up the middle somewhere and it turned into something good,” said Wingo. “I just kept my hands back and swung straight up the middle and tried to hit a laser and it turned into a double off the wall.”

He drove the ball over the left fielder’s head, scoring the tying run. Casey Mawhinney then bunted him over, setting up the winning run at third base. Cade Shisser hit a deep fly ball to left, putting the Raiders up 2-1 for good with a sacrifice fly.

Winning pitcher Tyler Dowdy
(photo courtesy of Nick Nahas)

Dowdy, who had hit into the double play with the bases loaded the inning before, didn’t let that deter him. He pitched the last two innings of the game in relief of Wingo and retired all six batters that he faced, striking out three and picking up the win.

“I had a bad day at the plate, but the thing about our team this year, people can have bad days and we pick each other up,” said Dowdy. “My mindset on the mound was to go out there and do it for my team and just shove it and go out and do my best. We don’t quit, and we knew that we had to get that W.”

The Raiders (17-2, 6-1) are now in the driver’s seat to take the number one seed in the Class 8A-District 6 tournament, which Plant City will host in about three weeks. They just have to beat a one-win East Bay team on Thursday to wrap up the top seed. They have now won five in a row, avenging their last loss to Bloomingdale two and a half weeks ago.

“We can’t think that we have the number one seed in the bag right now,” said Wingo. “East Bay beat us last year at our home field and they are playing us at our home field again this year, and they are a scrappy team. We have to go to work and battle still because this isn’t over yet.”

– Nick Nahas is a freelance writer in eastern Hillsborough County and covers a wide range of topics. Be sure and follow Nick on Twitter by clicking here.