LAKEWOOD RANCH -- The Buffalo Creek 10-11 All-Star team used a potent offense to march to the District 26 crown.
In Friday's Section IV opener at Lakewood Ranch Little League, Buffalo Creek relied on some nifty relief pitching to pair with some red-hot hitting en route to a 12-6 victory over Lutz.
Matthew Sullivan was called into duty after starter Diego Cardenas was lifted following Carson Yonker's two-run home run gave Lutz an early 3-0 lead.
The move preserved Cardenas for Saturday's two games. Little League rules say the left-hander would have been unavailable had he gone more than 20 pitches.
Sullivan was just the right fit to take over for Cardenas as he went into the sixth inning, scattering three runs and three hits while racking up six strikeouts.
"It's all about pitch count," Buffalo Creek manager Scott Sullivan said. "(Diego) didn't look like he was on (Friday), and he's a lot better pitcher than that. I know (Saturday) coming back, he'll give us a lot more than he gave us (Friday). I was looking for the pitcher that was sharp. If Matthew wouldn't have been on, then I would've went to somebody else. ... He just happened to be on, and everything was working."
Meanwhile, Buffalo Creek (1-0) broke the game open with nine runs in the second and third innings. It did so with patience at the plate, inducing Lutz pitchers into seven walks over those two frames.
Matthew Sullivan drove in three of those runs on two hits and later added a solo home run to finish with a 3-for-4 day with four runs batted in.
Cardenas (1-for-2, double, RBI, two walks), Jacob D'Urso (1-for-3, home run, RBI, walk) and Taylor Steier (3-for-3, walk, three runs, stolen base) contributed to the offense, too.
"They've been hitting the ball well," Scott Sullivan said. "That's the least amount of runs we've scored (in All-Stars). ... They're just exploding off the ball. I think we're averaging two home runs a game."
Buffalo Creek faces Plant City at 10 a.m. Saturday before meeting North Brandon in its sectional finale at 12:30 p.m.
North Brandon topped Plant City 9-3 in Friday's other 10-11 game.
LAKEWOOD RANCH 14, PLANT CITY 3 (4) -- Lakewood Ranch started off the tournament strong with a victory over Plant City in a game stopped by the 10-run mercy rule after four innings.
The tournament hosts used clutch two-out hitting to rack up six runs in the first inning and never look back.
"I think it was three out of the four innings, we scored with two outs," Ranch manager John Schroeder said. "It just shows my guys didn't get down on themselves, didn't give up and just kept battling."
Schroeder's son John Schroeder (2-for-3, two runs) joined Blake Wood (2-for-3, double, two runs, RBI), Peter Balos (2-for-2, two runs, RBI) and Zachary Fenimore (2-for-2, two runs, three RBIs) as Ranch's leading hitters.
Ranch faces New Tampa at 10 a.m. before playing North Brandon at 12:30 p.m.
North Brandon blasted New Tampa 16-2 in five innings.
In the Section IV Little League Softball Tournament, Buffalo Creek's two teams earned losses in their openers.
The 9-10 team was defeated 16-2 by New Tampa, and Land O'Lakes bested Buffalo Creek 14-4 in an 11-12 matchup.