By Jarrett Guthrie
VALRICO – Nothing seemed to get to Sammy Seplowe on Thursday night. Not big pressure moments, not a the mostly good-natured jeers of the opposing Bloomingdale crowd, and not most of all, not the Bulls hitters as the junior reliever mowed through his opponent’s lineups in extra-innings pitching 4 2/3 of no-hit relief – punctuating his final strike three and dancing off the mound as Alonso took a 4-3 win on the road in the 10thinning.
“I know to stay calm,” Seplowe said. “I love when the other team or the fans heckle me. It gets me hyped up. I think I do better under pressure.”
After battling to a stalemate through seven, both late-inning relievers Seplowe and Bloomingdale’s Trey Wilson put in tremendous efforts on the mound. Seplowe, who entered in the sixth, struck out nine, and issuing just two walks, while in response the sophomore Wilson (who came on to start the seventh) struck out six in four innings of work.
The Ravens offense finally got the better of Wilson in the 10th as senior Zen Hiatt led off the inning with a single to right, moved to second two hitters later on a walk, before junior Hector Montilla slapped a single into left plating his teammate for the decider.
“The tension is all around,” Montilla said. “Especially, against a good team like that. And when there are men on base, you have to take that opportunity and when he gives you a fastball down the middle, well, you better hit it.”
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Seplowe said he was confident with where his team was in the lineup heading into the 10th inning.
“They (Hiatt and Montilla) are two fantastic ballplayers, and great dudes as well,” he said. “They put in so much work, and I knew that they would be successful in that situation. It was just awesome to see.”
Wilson also faced some adversity in the eighth after a strikeout to start the frame, walking three before getting himself out of the jam with two more K’s. Montilla, who struck out with the bases loaded in his first at-bat against Wilson, said he was impressed with the grit the sophomore showed.
“He was really good, some nasty pitches and you can tell he knows how to pitch,” Montilla said of Wilson. “But we came up clutch and made it work in that last (inning).”
Early on, Bloomingdale (17-6) took the lead as Marlon Bowen led off the second with a double, took third on a wild pitch and scored on a Wyatt Strickland sac fly. The Bulls added another the next inning when Donovan Dubuisson singled and scored on a Gabe Garrett sac fly.
Alonso answered back loading the bases in the fifth with some excellent two-out at-bats. Sam Drumheller started the rally with a single, followed by a hit by Montilla, and a walk drawn by Roberto Rivera, all cashed in on a triple down the right field line by Austin Kirsch.
“I was down 0-2 and in a deep hole, so I was just looking to put it in play and hit it hard somewhere,” Kirsch said. “I got a fastball where I wanted it and drove I the other way.
“I knew this was going to be a battle to the end.”
The lead stood for one inning before Bloomingdale got another leadoff double from Bowen, who then stole third and tied the game on a wild pitch.
Mixed in was steady starting pitching from Bloomingdale’s Jack Owens (3.2ip, three runs, four K’s) and the Ravens’ Haile Daley (3.2ip, two runs, one K), good middle relief from Alonso’s Christian Del Campo (1.2ip, one run, four K’s) and Bulls righty Chase Chappell (2.1ip, one hit, one walk), before turning to the two relievers who factored in the decision.
Both backstops turned in defensive highlights with Bloomingdale’s Wyatt Strickland throwing out a runner in the first and making a nice pop-foul catch in the seventh, and Alonso’s Keenan Rutledge running down a runner in between third and home in the third inning.
Bloomingdale travels to Largo next week for Class 6A-District 10 play as the top seed, and automatically advances to the semifinals facing the winner between Largo and Pinellas Park on Tuesday, April 27; while Alonso is the No. 4 seed in 7A-7, hosting Plant at 7pm on Tuesday.
Kirsch said he feels like the end-of-season battle with the Bulls gives his team a lot of oomph heading into the postseason.
“Those extra innings, just makes winning matter that much more,” Kirsch said. “This is that momentum we needed heading into districts.”
Seplowe was a little more matter-of-fact:
“I believe this gives us a bunch of momentum,” he said, “I think we are going to roll over teams in districts.”
(14) Alonso 4
(2) Bloomingdale 3 – 10 innings
A 000|300|000|1 – |4|10|1
B 011|001|000|0 – |3|6|1
W – Seplowe (2-1); L – Wilson (0-1).
2B – Morgan (A); Bowen 2 (B); 3B – Kirsch (A). Records – A (13-9); B (17-6).