Prep baseball | Lakewood Ranch outlasts Palmetto in eight-inning district thriller

Chupp's two-runsingle in eighthproves difference

jlembo@bradenton.comApril 24, 2013 

PALMETTO -- The biggest bat in Lakewood Ranch's lineup didn't take a single swing Tuesday night.

Instead, Brad Zunica jogged to first base, intentionally walked four times by Palmetto during a Class 6A-District 12 quarterfinal.

So the guys behind him came through. And the fifth-seeded Mustangs prolonged their season by beating the fourth-seeded Tigers 4-2 in eight innings.

Lakewood Ranch (13-12) visits Seminole Osceola, the tournament's top seed, 7 p.m. Wednesday in a semifinal thanks in part to sophomore Colton Chupp, whose two-run single in the eighth was the difference.

"I was hoping to try and drive it," said Chupp, who lined a 2-2 pitch to right center before he was cut down trying to stretch it into a double, "and get those runs in."

The rally began when Palmetto put Zunica, who doubled as the Mustangs' starting pitcher, on first with one out and none on. Tigers starter Tyler Bench was cruising, having allowed just two hits, none since the fouth, and had retired 14 straight around the free passes to Zunica.

Lakewood Ranch followed with a well-executed hit-and-run, as Justin Greenaway poked a seeing-eye single to right and Shane Zipperer, Zunica's cour

tesy runner, sprinted into third. Andrew Giddens was walked intentionally before Chupp, who didn't hit the ball out of the infield on his previous three at-bats, scored the Mustangs' biggest hit of the year.

Zunica made it stand up, shutting Palmetto down after spotting the Tigers a pair of runs in the first.

"He beat us on the mound. I can't do anything about that -- I can do something about his bat," said Tigers coach Phil Olson. "He's a great player. ... I wasn't going have him beat us in this game; that's why we walked him every time. But somebody else came up and beat us. That's the way it rolls."

Palmetto (12-13) had a chance to win it in the seventh but were stymied by Jack Dunn, the Mustangs' freshman third baseman who was called up to the varsity roughly three weeks into the season.

With two on and one out, his diving stab robbed Adonis Bonilla of a hit and allowed Dunn to get a force at second. Palmetto loaded the bases later in the inning and sent up pinch-hitter Tomas Martinez, whose slower roller was gobbled up by a charging Dunn. His throw to first beat Martinez by a couple of steps.

The Mustangs erased their 2-0 deficit in the fourth when Giddens doubled and went to third when third baseman Hunter Leonard couldn't handle a throw from shorstop Adonis Bonilla on Cameron Pearcey's grounder.

Giddens scored on Bench's errant attempt to pick Pearcey off first, and Pearcey scored on the same play on another throwing error by first baseman Jared Taylor.

Four innings later, Mustangs first-year coach Ryan Kennedy, a member of Lakewood Ranch's 2003 state champion baseball team, was toasting his first posteason win.

"I've been fortunate enough to be part of a state championship team," said Kennedy, who was wearing his championship ring Tuesday. "I'd give my state title just for these guys to experience that. And we take one day at a time and (Wednesday), we've got to focus on the next one."

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