Saturday, Dec 20, 2014

Devils pull away from Dragons

BY Brandon Howard
Highlands Today

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LAKE PLACID - In baseball, it's usually the winning pitcher who strikes out double-digit batters. That wasn't the case for Lake Placid ace Tyler Carr.

Friday night the Green Dragon hurler fanned 15 Avon Park hitters in a losing effort, as the Red Devils pulled away for a 5-1 win at Dragons Field.

The Class 4A-District 9 game gave the Devils their first district win, improving Avon Park to 5-1 overall. Lake Placid dropped to 0-5 overall and 0-2 in districts.

"Tyler is a great pitcher," said Avon Park coach Whit Cornell. "He's got great stuff. But I told the guys, if we put the ball in play, good things will happen. Tonight we did that, ran the bases well, and played heads-up baseball."

The Devils scored in the top of the first inning when Luis Martinez scampered home on a wild pitch to put Avon Park up 1-0.

Lake Placid tried to answer in the bottom half of the inning, belting consecutive singles with two outs. But a pop fly ended the scoring threat. It was the most base-runners the Dragons would have until the later innings against Avon Park starter Daniel Simons.

"Daniel pitched a really good game tonight," Cornell said. "He showed a lot of poise out there."

Carr struck out the side in the top of the second, but the Devils rebounded in the next inning, tacking on two more runs.

Martinez led off with a double. Alfred Brown followed with a single, and despite Carr striking out Tyrone Perry, Martinez and Brown advanced to second and third base. Norris Gordon brought Martinez home with an RBI ground out and Mason Jahna plated Brown with an infield single.

Taking care of the minute details, such as alert base running, is something Cornell has been preaching to his team all season.

"That's what we've always talked about," Cornell said. "And tonight we ran the bases pretty well. Take care of the little things and good things will happen. Tonight a lot of guys stepped up and we did that."

By the middle innings, Simons had settled into a groove. Other than walking one Dragons batter, he kept Lake Placid off the bases between the third and sixth innings, even retiring the side in the fifth.

"We've got to hit the ball better," said Dragons coach D.W. Daum. "We're just not hitting the ball well right now, especially when we have people in scoring position. It's really been our Achilles heel this season."

Daum added that he'd like to see a more concerted effort on defense as well.

"We played pretty uncharacteristic baseball for us tonight," he said. "We made more errors and mistakes than we usually do."

The Dragons get a break in their district schedule next week, playing two out of county schools along with hosting rival Sebring. Daum said he hopes to see some in improvement in the way his team approaches each game.

"Sebring is always one you want to win," he said. "They're sort of our cross town rivals. But right now we've got to start playing smarter baseball. Our guys have got to be aware of when the play is going on and know that you can't just quit playing."

Avon Park added its final two runs in the fifth and seventh innings. Martinez opened the fifth with a single, and Brown advanced him to second with a sacrifice bunt.

Tyrone Perry brought Martinez home with a single. In the top of the seventh, with Justin Larosa on the mound for Lake Placid, Trey Frazier and Kyle Thompson went down swinging for the first two outs. But Martinez reached on a walk, and after a lengthy battle, Brown brought him home with a monster single. Brown's alert base running allowed him to go from first to third as Martinez scampered home.

The Dragons scored their lone run in the bottom of the seventh inning. Jacob Cram opened the inning with a double, and Larosa plated him with another double. Kelly McGrath came in to relieve Simons, and struck out Lake Placid's next two batters to end the game.

bhoward@highlandstoday.com

863-386-5841

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