Leopards’ Aske delivers clutch complete-game effort to solve upset-minded Citrus, 5-4

BASEBALL

Of Hernando’s 10 safeties,

Lashley, Morgan, Bronson,

Valdez each collect 2 hits

By TONY CASTRO

HernandoSport.com

BROOKSVILLE – Class 5A, District 7 favorites this spring, Hernando High, saved its best efforts for last Monday night to avoid a costly two-game losing skein.

After dropping two of three games last week – including its first-ever loss to 5A-7 foe Cypress Creek last Friday in Wesley Chapel, 5-3 – the Leopards seem to be sailing ahead 4-1 to 6A-6 cellar-dweller Inverness-Citrus Monday night in the opening round of the Tom Varn Baseball Tournament sponsored by Brooksville’s Farm Bureau Insurance.

Marrick Aske

HHS right-hander Marrick Aske was enjoying a career night.

Though 4 2/3 frames, the 6-foot, 190-pounder had yielded one hit – a ringing two-out double to catcher Evan Badger in the first inning – and nothing else.

But after four straight strikeouts and facing the ’Canes’ No. 9 batter, Citrus climbed back into the game.

On an 0-1 offering, Zane Zacke, singled just inside the third base line. He immediately stole second base.

Junior Mikey Gatto walked on a 3-2 pitch before freshman Jacob Palmeri bounced a ball between shortstop and third that third sacker Connor Morgan gloved, but could not make a play.

With the sacks loaded, Marrick faced his toughest batter, Badger, who had stung the ball twice.

Make that three times by punching an 0-1 pitch to left plating Zacke and Gatto, 4-3.

Next, the opposing pitcher, Chance Yates, singled up the middle plating Palmeri.

A game that appeared locked up moments before had suddenly become unhinged.

Aske restored order by punching out Nick Lopez on a border line 3-2 pitch, 4-all.

In the bottom of the sixth, the hosts regained the lead.

Leadoff batter, Javy Bonilla, was grazed by a pitch.

Facing the Leopards’ No. 8=9 batters – Dylan and Dalton Black – each dropped down sacrifice bunts pushing Bonilla to third.

With two outs, senior Carson Lashley smacked a 1-0 Yates pitch to left easily scoring Bonilla, 5-4.

Though Morgan could not pad the lead – flying out to center – the Leopards entered the lucky seventh ahead.

But could Aske – who had never pitched more 5 2/3 innings in his prep career – close out matters?

The Leopards’ up and down defense didn’t help.

Again, Citrus’ No. 9 batter, Zacke, played a pivotal role. He grounded to Morgan, who was charged with an error.

The Leopards’ game-high third miscue of the night put even more pressure on Aske.

But facing the top of the ‘Canes’ lineup, he responded by enticing Gallo into a shallow fly ball to right.

A wild pitch allowed Zacke to scoot up 90 feet.

Palmeri couldn’t move the runner over either popping out to shortstop.

With two outs, Aske was asked to face the dangerous Badger with first base open.

Instead, he pitched to him. He struck him out looking on another borderline 3-2 pitch to close the books.

Fittingly, Aske became the game’s hero behind his initial complete game effort.

Aske (1-1) scattered five hits and four runs (three earned) allowing one free pass against a career-high eight strikeouts.

With the win, the Purple and Gold avoided getting knocked out of its own tourney in the opening round, improving to 5-3.

Up next, HHS will entertain Bishop McLaughlin at 7 p.m. Tuesday (weather permitting).

Bishop McLaughlin advanced by trimming highly touted Land O’Lakes, 7-3.

With the setback, the Gators will face the Hurricanes at 4 p.m. Tuesday at Emerson Field.

HHS: Many positives

The Leopards, who are attempting to win this tournament for the first time 22 seasons, collected a game-high 10 hits off Yates.

Morgan – who had only two hits through his first seven games – Lashley, David Hale Bronson and Broc Valdez each rapped two hits apiece for the victors.

By comparison, of Citrus’ five hits, Badger led the visitors with two safeties.

Scoring recap

Citrus dented the scoreboard first with an unearned run in the first inning.

With two outs, Badger crushed an 0-2 pitch for a double to right-center.

Yates followed with a major league pop up. When the ball came down – among four HHS defenders – catcher Dalton Black was charged with an error as the ball grazed his glove before falling to the turf.

On the play, an alert courtesy runner, Jalen Armstrong, scored from second, 1-0.

The hosts quickly tied the game in the bottom of the first.

Lashley led off with a booming double to left-center.

Morgan singled placing runners at the corners. He promptly stole second base – the first of four stolen bases in four tries by the hosts.

Dylan DuPhily

Sophomore Dylan DuPhily skied to centerfield for a sacrifice fly, 1-1.

Steve Taylor lined a shot to right field where Cody Cyr made the catch and fired the ball back to second base to double up Morgan for an inning-ending double play.

HHS took the lead in the second.

Bronson rifled a double to left.

Valdez looped a single to left placing runners at the corners.

Dalton Black

With one out, Dylan Black punched an RBI single to left, 2-1 Leopards.

The Purple and Gold tacked on two runs in the fourth.

Again the frame opened with a single to center by Bronson.

Valdez followed with a perfectly executed hit-and-run double to right, plating Bronson, 3-1.

With two outs, Dalton Black punched an RBI single to right, 4-1.

Post-game chatter

Carson Lashley

Lashley, who hit .192 last season, with only two games with multiple hits finished with his second multi-hit game in eight starts.

“Tonight is the best of I’ve seen the ball all season” explained Lashley, 18.

On what Lashley took away from the narrow win, “Citrus was really scrappy. They fought the entire game.

“…This was a big win for us. It was big after that last district loss.”

On what it will take to solve Bishop McLaughlin to reach the semifinals, “We’ve got to come out with the same attitude we had at the end of the game.”

Broc Valdez

Valdez, who played at the JV level last spring, departed following his second multi-hit game of the season.

“Tonight was the best I‘ve seen the ball. What I take away is don’t get too confident, just keep getting hit after hit.”

On his take on Aske, “Marrick pitched a great game. You can’t ask for much more.”

On what it will take to solve Bishop McLaughlin to reach the semifinals, “We have to come out tomorrow and do exactly what we did today.”

David Hale Bronson

After hurting his neck during football season Bronson admitted, “I feel really good. Citrus was definitely really good competition compared to their record.”

On Aske’s heroics, “He comes in every week and hits his spots. You can’t ask for much more from any pitcher.”

On facing Bishop McLaughlin. “We all have to come in focused and ready to play tomorrow.”

Coaches’ corner

HHS’ 24th-year skipper Tim Sims savored this one because of Aske’s efforts.

Tim Sims Photo by JOE DiCRISTOFALO

“He played for me for five years, including the summers,” noted Sims. “He definitely gets 110 percent out of his ability. He changes speeds, he locates. He’s the epitome of what I call a pitcher. He competes hitter after hitter.

“… He plays that chess game. That‘s why we won with two bunts and a single at the end. This is the way this team has win games this year,” added the veteran mentor.

On Citrus, “They’re just snake bit right now. They’ve played some good people and been in games. This was another. They’ve got good coaches; they’ll get it together.”

Sims grinned when Valdez’s name was mentioned, “He worked really hard in the pre-season. All he does is get big hits for us. He’s earned the right to put on the uniform thanks to his class work and work on the field.”

In taking on Bishop McLaughlin, “It’s David vs. Goliath,” quipped Sims. “Have you seen coach Swymer? He towers over me.

“…Seriously, tomorrow will be two good ball clubs going at it. The (Justin) Koehler kid throws mid-80s. I’m looking forward to it. ”

Hernando 5,

Citrus 4

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

R

H

ER

LOB

CIT

1

0

0

0

3

0

0

4

5

0

5

HER

1

1

0

2

0

1

X

5

10

3

6

CIT – Yates and Badger.

HER – Marrick Aske and Dalton Black.

W – Aske (1-1). L – Yates (0-1).

2B – CIT: Badger. HER: Lashley, Bronson, Valdez.

Records – Citrus (0-1 tourney, 1-7 overall), Hernando (1-0 tourney, 5-3 overall).

2019 Tom Varn Baseball Tournament sponsored by Brookville’s Farm Bureau Insurance

03-18:

@ Hernando

Bishop McLaughlin 7, Land O’ Lakes 3

Hernando 5, Citrus 4

@ Central

Mitchell 15, Central 0

Cypress Creek 6, Lecanto 4

@ Weeki Wachee

River Ridge 6, Weeki Wachee 5

Springstead 13, Hudson 1

@ Nature Coast Technical

Pasco 13, Fivay 8

Zephyrhills 5, NCT 3

03-19:

@ Hernando

Land O’ Lakes vs. Citrus, 4 p.m.

Bishop McLaughlin vs. Hernando, 7 p.m.

@ Central

Lecanto vs. Central, 4 p.m.

Mitchell vs. Cypress Creek, 7 p.m.

@ Weeki Wachee

Hudson vs. Weeki Wachee, 4 p.m.

River Ridge vs. Springstead, 7 p.m.

@ Nature Coast Technical

Fivay vs. NCT, 4 p.m.

Pasco vs. Zephyrhills, 7 p.m.

 

 

 

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