Hawks, Satin battle for Plant in win over East Lake
By Jarrett Guthrie
TAMPA – Both head coaches in Friday’s Class 7A-Region 2 semifinal game made gut decisions about their pitching prior to the game.
For East Lake coach Zack Roper, the decision to start Brady Wright against Plant came down to the coaches feeling that the sophomore’s four-pitch mix matched up best against the home team Panthers. From the other dugout, longtime Plant skipper Dennis Braun made the call to put junior Mike Hawks, who was still fighting a head-cold that saw him sent home early from Thursday’s practice, on the mound.
Both decisions set the stage for two gutsy starting performances with Wright puzzling the Panthers hitters early, but Hawks claiming the night’s biggest bow delivering a complete-game effort as Plant topped the Eagles 4-2.
“He went out and did what he has all year, pitching in a lot of tough games for us,” Braun said. “I can’t say enough good things about him, he was just a bulldog for us today.”
If Plant junior Michael Hawks was less than full strength on Friday due to a nagging head cold he didn’t show it spinning the Panthers’ second-straight complete-game win in the region tournament.
Hawks was tested immediately with a comebacker to the mound for the first out of a quick inning, and in response Wright kept Plant off-balance and late on a number of pitches through three scoreless innings.
It was East Lake (21-6) that changed the scoreboard first in the top of the fourth as the Eagles put together three two-out singles from Dominic Merrer, Nathan Norwood and the RBI liner off the bat of Finn Sullivan (2-for-3).
East Lake senior Finn Sullivan sends an RBI single off the pitcher in the fourth inning for the game’s first run.
But Hawks was unfazed.
“We had to score one to win anyway,” Hawks said of the East Lake run, “and the way we’ve played all year, I had no worries on the boys getting me that run back and a few more.”
The Eagles’ lead was short-lived as Plant responded in the home-fourth when Bryce Pelleriti was hit in the back with a pitch, moved to second on a Thomas Bolton single to left, and both scored when Robert Satin stroked a double into right field.
“I feel like I’ve been swinging the bat pretty well all season, so I just went up there and finally got it started,” Satin said. “Once the bats got going there, all the momentum came our way and we took it from there.”
An excited Robert Satin is mobbed heading back to the dugout after driving in a pair of runs for Plant with a double.
Satin was another question mark for Braun heading into the game, as the junior pitcher and first baseman spun a complete-game on Tuesday against Newsome and was relegated to designated hitter duties for Friday’s game.
“(Robert) hasn’t been able to pick his arm up since his last start (on Tuesday) and didn’t take BP the last two days,” Braun said. “… He told me today that he was ready to swing tonight. He’s had big hit after big hit and it has been impressive to watch.”
Rocco DeMarinis stretched the lead later in the same inning with an RBI single into left.
Plant (22-6) added some insurance the next inning as Jack Meade doubled into left on a ball that tipped off the glove of an Eagles outfielder on the run, and it was Pelleriti’s turn to drive in a run with a ground ball through the third base side.
Panthers junior Bryce Pelleriti singles in the final run for Plant in a 4-2 region semifinal win.
The Eagles tried to mount a rally in the sixth as Embry-Riddle signee Colin Sengkhounmany had a leadoff single, Jayden Harriel singled into right, and a groundball off the bat of Merrer looked like it would put two outs on the board, but the throw to first was in the dirt and got away allowing Sengkhounmany to motor to the plate all the way from second.
“Colin is a great kid of the highest character … and he has gone above and beyond for this program,” Roper said. “When we got two on, we needed three (runs) and we didn’t want to be that far down heading into the last inning, so I sent him and we battled. But sometimes things just don’t go your way.”
That run was all the damage Hawks was willing to offer up. He retired two quick outs in the sixth, and then worked around a two-out double in the seventh from Daniel Spicher to complete the game, earning his fifth win of the season, allowing two runs on seven hits, while striking out four.
“I don’t think you should ever be completely comfortable up on the mound against a good team like that,” Hawks said. “Don’t get comfortable, but you do have to stay focused and just play the game.”
Wright, who went five innings allowing four runs (three earned) and struck out three, before turning the ball over to Harriel, who pitched a 1-2-3 sixth inning for the Eagles. The game’s three pitchers issued no walks on the night.
“We went with Brady because he has a good four-pitch mix … so we liked him against (Plant’s) style of hitters,” Roper said of Wright. “He threw a very good game, and there were a few plays we could have made behind him, but that is baseball.”
East Lake sophomore pitcher Brady Wright.
The win earns Plant a trip to region No. 1-seed Windermere, winners 9-1 over Durant on Friday – just the third visit to the region final in Braun’s 18-year tenure.
“This is only our third time in the region final, one we won, and one we lost,” Braun said. “I just can’t give this team enough credit for clawing and punching and finding ways to win.”
Asked after the game what their expectations and knowledge of the Windermere Wolverines were, Satin and Hawks admitted to limited info on their upcoming opponent. But they know the team they have behind them.
“We didn’t know much about Newsome, or East Lake, but we just found a way to win,” Satin said. “We still have something to prove and we are going to do it on Tuesday night.”
Hawks adding: “I don’t know much about their team, but I know this team. And this is a great team and we aren’t scared of anyone.”
⚾ Class 7A-Region 2 Semifinal ⚾
Tarpon Springs East Lake 2
EL 000|101|0 – |2|7|1
P 000|310|x – |4|7|0
W – Hawks (5-5); L – Wright (3-1)
2B – Spicher (EL); Satin, Meade (P). Records – EL (21-6); P (22-6).