Defense continues to shine as Plant claims 7A-5 crown

By Jarrett Guthrie

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TAMPA – Just over 10 weeks ago, Plant sophomore Rocco DeMarinis took a pitch off the hand against Jesuit breaking the middle finger on his right hand and derailing his season. On Thursday, DeMarinis returned to the lineup for the first time and was quickly put to work as the Panthers third baseman hauled in a fly ball to start Thursday’s Class 7A-District 5 championship against Alonso – kicking off a defensive clinic by Plant as it took home the title with a 3-1 win.

“It has been great watching our team win, but obviously I wanted to come back as soon as I could,” DeMarinis said, “and I’m glad I got to be a part of it, finally.”

Panthers junior Mike Hawks carved through Alonso’s lineup, scattering two hits and a pair of walks across five innings of shutout baseball earning his fourth win.

Plant (20-6) went down in order to Alonso senior Dylan DeGusipe as the Ravens righty worked his curveball well in the first inning, but the second inning proved his undoing hitting Bryce Pelleriti, who promptly stole second and scored on a one-out, groudball single to right by Robert Satin. A pair of walks loaded the base and Tanner Swank’s fly ball to left did the job to get Satin in for what would prove the decider.

“It was very important to get Mike an early lead and watch him settle in,” Satin said. “Mike is always really good … and he did a really great job holding them to zero.”

Hawks allowed just one runner to reach second base in his five scoreless innings.

“When I pitch, I’m fine letting them hit the ball as much as they can,” Hawks said. “My defense is there, and I know they will do their work.

“I trust my guys, knowing if its hit out there they are going to make a play.”

“He’s always been gutsy for us,” Plant head coach Dennis Braun said of Hawks. “We expect him to go out there and do his thing and let our defense play.”

Braun praised his team after the game as being the most well-rounded Panthers squad he’s seen in his 18 years as the program’s skipper.

“Everybody in this starting lineup has a home run, and I’m pretty sure that has never happened here,” Braun said. “Swank comes up and hits a grand slam (Wednesday against Steinbrenner), (Tanner) Gilbert hits a home run a few games back against Strawberry Crest, it’s been that way all year – someone new gets a big hit.”

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And Braun had no doubt where the credit for the district final win, and much of the team’s 20 wins, belonged.

“I can’t say enough about our defense, Swank, Bolton … I’d have to say, we haven’t been better defensively as a whole, than this team in my 18 years,” he said. “Every day, every game, somebody does something special, and it’s been a lot of fun.”

That defense, which included a monster game from senior shortstop Thomas Bolton, rangy coverage in centerfield from Pelleriti, and payoff PFP from Hawks and Satin in relief – as both fielded their position on the mound cleanly.

Alonso (13-11) couldn’t find a solution to the Panthers on the year, dropping four games to its district rival this season.

The Panthers padded the lead in the fifth when Jack Meade singled and took second on a bobble in left field, and Alonso intentionally walked Conley Strayer to setup the force out. The two runners took off a few pitches later, drawing a throw to third base that was mishandled allowing Meade to regain his feet and rush down the line, sliding head first into the plate.

Satin’s relief outing started out a bit shaky as the junior lefty walked the first two he faced, and after an out Alonso got on the board on a Ben Drumheller (1-for-3) groundout.

But that was all the charity Satin would allow as he finished two innings of work without allowing a hit and striking out one. Drumheller had the game’s first hit – a single in the second inning, and Austin Kirsch singled in the fourth inning.

Three Alonso pitchers limited Plant to just three hits (including a double by Hawks), but walks and the two errors proved too much to overcome. Sammy Reed pitched 2 2/3 innings, allowing one hit, and Hector Montilla moved in from rightfield to pitch the final two innings, with three strikeouts.

Plant reaches the region tournament for the 10th time under Braun, claiming its first district title since 2019. In last week’s FHSAA Rankings for Class 7A the Panthers were 12th, and will now await Saturday’s final seeding, but will host a region quarterfinal game next Tuesday.

Class 7A-District 5 Final 

Plant 3
Alonso 1

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A 000|001|0 – |1|2|2
P 020|010|x – |3|3|0
W – Hawks; L – DeGusipe; S – Satin
2B – Hawks (P). Records – A (0-0); P (20-0).