Bulls freshman Colby Shelton lined a single into centerfield to drive in a pair of runs, and later scored what would be the deciding run in the third inning. 

By Jarrett Guthrie, editor

VALRICO – The best “neighborhood” rivalries rarely disappoint and Thursday’s meeting between Newsome and Bloomingdale was far from an anomalous dud. Both teams bandied about the lead early before the Bulls relievers – Riley Moore and Nico Saladino – went into lockdown mode allowing the Bloomingdale offense to get the advantage for good and hold on for a 6-4 victory.

“Coach (Kris) Wilken is always talking to us about controlling the damage,” senior Garrett Borgen said. “For guys to come in, work around threats on base, that’s always a huge thing in a win.”

Newsome (14-8) jumped out to a quick lead as the game’s first two hitters, Cade Affeld and Zach Benson singled and eventually scored first when Kelsen Johnson lined a hit to right to plate the first run, and a throwing error on the same play allowed the second run to cross.

Bloomingdale (14-7) answered right back in the home first as singles from Bryce Hazzard and Jackson Hobbs were cashed in on a line drive single by Coby Shelton to centerfield.

Shelton has been a nice surprise for the Bulls this season as the freshman upped his RBI total to 16 on the year. He’d also add the deciding run in this game as well, and said the Bulls hitters maintained focus, answering everything their opponents had for them.

“We just went out there and kept battling to win everything,” Shelton said. “We went out there to win every inning.”

Shelton added of the rivalry between the two schools separated by about a 10-minute drive: “This is something else, you just want to beat them so bad. You just want to win.”

Newsome sophomore Kelsen Johnson slaps an RBI single to right in the first inning. Johnson was 2-for-3 in the game. 

The arrow continued to fluctuate as Newsome regained the lead in the second as Fulton Lockhart’s single was converted on an RBI double from Benson, only to have the Bulls answer and up the ante in the home-half on RBI singles from Brock Wilken and Hobbs. The Wolves would make one last bid for the lead as Tyler McKenna buried a solo homer in the wooded thicket behind the right-center fence to tie the game, but Bloomingdale starting pitcher Myles Caba worked himself out of a self-created jam to strand two aboard in the third.

Bloomingdale senior pitcher Myles Caba. 

Bloomingdale’s offense rewarded the senior Caba, as for the third time in as many innings the Bulls got some solid two-out hitting, this time from junior Dominic Gonnella who sent the second pitch of his at-bat into center to score Shelton.

From there, Riley Moore put a stop to the Wolves scoring run, avoiding damage despite loading the bases with one inning on the mound, before Saladino went to work to finish off the win.

Saladino moved from shortstop to the mound in the fifth, earning the save while allowing just one walk and one hit batter to reach base, and striking out a pair in his three hitless innings. The Bulls defense erased the walk turning a double-play, along with supporting efforts in the outfield, and Saladino robbing a “look what I found” hot shot back to the mound for an easy putout in the sixth.

“I was just trying to go up there and do my job,” Saladino said. “I know these fielders behind me, what they can do, so I’m always comfortable up there.”

Borgen added an insurance run in the fifth with an RBI sac fly, after Antonio DeJesus reached on a two-base error and Saladino did his job bunting the runner to third.

Bloomingdale, the No. 2 seed in the Class 8A-District 6 tournament, has just one remaining regular season game (a visit to Jefferson next Friday); while Newsome the No. 2 seed in Class 9A-8 has a Tuesday home game with Robinson, and a road game at Brandon remaining.