Braden River's shot at Little League title comes to end

jdill@bradenton.comJuly 7, 2013 

EAST MANATEE -- After coming out flat against New Tampa American Little League in its Section IV All-Star Tournament opener Friday, Braden River's goal of advancing to the state tournament became an arduous task to accomplish.

But after the first two innings of Saturday's first game against Plant City, there was light at the end of the tunnel.

However, that dream ended after a setback to Bloomingdale American, who claimed the section championship with three victories in the pool play format, in Saturday's second game.

"They have nothing to be ashamed of," Braden River manager Chris Kastor said. "They came out here (Saturday) and laid their hearts out, and they played great. … This game (against Bloomingdale) was played harder than the championship game at districts, I thought."

Braden River finished 1-2 in the tournament to take third place as New Tampa claimed second with a 2-1 record.

Bloomingdale defeated New Tampa 7-5 in the morning, which meant Braden River needed to beat Bloomingdale and either hope for a New Tampa loss to Plant City or for Plant City to score a lot of runs against New Tampa.

Neither scenario panned out.

"It was mostly about pride," Kastor said. "They knew at the beginning of the game if they had beat them, then New Tampa would have went. And they knew if (Bloomingdale) beat us, they would have went. This was for pride. This was to go 5-1 (between district and sectionals) and finish in second place. That's what it was for."

Still, the tournament hosts had a chance to upend Bloomingdale from the unbeaten ranks.

Facing a 5-0 deficit, Braden River reeled off four runs in the bottom of the sixth inning, capped by Kieren Collins' three-run home run.

Bloomingdale answered with a solo homer from Connor Moran in the top of the seventh and Braden River couldn't plate any runs as they stranded runners on second and third to end the game.

Despite the 6-4 loss, Kastor pointed to his team's energy on Saturday as a big turnaround from Friday's performance.

And it began in the morning with a 9-2 victory over Plant City, where the offense generated eight runs in the first two innings.

Austin Brinling (2-for-5, double, RBI), Taylor Pawelkoski (2-for-5, double, RBI), Dalton Buckner (2-for-3, two stolen bases, two RBIs) and Andre Nunez (2-for-3) recorded multi-hit games for Braden River in the win.

Plant City's Robert Johnson (2-for-3) and Matthew Byars (double) led their club's hitting.

In the second game, Collins collected two of Braden River's six hits.

Bloomingdale's offense was led by Tyler McKenna (2-for-3, RBI) and Moran (2-for-4, home run, two RBIs).

Bloomingdale now represents Section IV as the intermediate division champ and heads to the state tournament beginning Friday in DeBary.

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