EAST MANATEE -- The two-out rally was started by an unlikely source.
It finished with a powerful smash.
The combination lifted Lakewood Ranch Little League's 9-10-year-old team to an 8-4 victory over host Braden River in Friday's District 26 All-Star Tournament action.
The win sends Ranch to Monday's championship game. Braden River (1-1) suffered its first defeat and must return Saturday against Buffalo Creek, which survived elimination by ousting Manatee West 7-3 in Friday's other 9-10 game.
"It's a big advantage when you're talking about pitch counts," Lakewood Ranch manager John Schroeder said. "For Little League, you have all these pitch counts and that's a big advantage coming back to play Monday instead of (Saturday). I'll have all my pitchers ready to go and available."
For two innings, Ranch cruised. But its 4-0 lead evap
orated as Braden River plated three runs in the third inning and tacked on the tying run in the top of the fourth inning.
The momentum swung, but Ranch shifted it right back in its half of the fourth.
It started with two outs and substitute Clay Hoffman batting in the No. 9 position. Hoffman slapped a base hit to left field to set the stage for Stone Frishman, who previously doubled and scored in the first inning.
Frishman launched a two-run home run to left-center field. Ranch added two more insurance runs in the fifth inning for the final tally.
"I always tell the guys, there's plenty of chances for everyone to be a hero," Lakewood Ranch manager John Schroeder said.
Ranch's other leading hitters included John Schroeder (2-for-3, two RBIs), Peter Balos (double), Nick Romagnola (double, run) and Blake Wood (2-for-3, double, run).
Braden River tallied only four hits off three Ranch hurlers (Wood, Frishman and Schroeder).
Buffalo Creek's 7-3 victory over Manatee West saw three players contribute from the plate in a big way. Mason Janz (2-for-3, home run, two stolen bases, three runs), Dylan Nealey (2-for-3, RBI) and Maven Gordon (2-for-2, two RBIs) paced the offense.
Ethan Breslin and Thomas Zinna each recorded doubles to lead West
Manatee West eliminated Manatee National 11-1 in five innings to advance to Saturday's intermediate division championship game against Braden River. West must defeat Braden River twice to win the district crown.
On Friday, the club's offense was sparked by Jared Dole (grand slam), Spencer Stephens (3-for-3, home run), Ryan Roby (2-for-3), Colton Lyerla (2-for-3, double) and Christopher Magley (2-for-3). Roberto Jimenez (3-for-3, double) led National.
Lakewood Ranch scored a 12-0 victory over Buffalo Creek White in a four-inning game behind a no-hitter from a quartet of pitchers. Tucker Smith, Austin Jenkins, Carter Chapin and Luke Roberts combined to pitch Ranch into Saturday's championship game against Buffalo Creek Blue, which is undefeated.
Jenkins (2-for-3, two runs), George Davis (double, two runs), Jack Fletcher (2-for-2, run) and Wyatt Hollifield (2-for-3, run) aided the offense.
Saturday's games start at 11 a.m.
There are three games on the slate for Saturday at 11 a.m. Games in the intermediate and 10-11 divisions can determine district champs, while the 9-10 game is an elimination affair.