LAKEWOOD RANCH -- Braden River has won this season with its pitching. The Pirates have a sub-2.00 ERA as a team and have managed to post one of the best records in Manatee County while scoring four runs per game.
The bottom of the fifth inning Friday at Lakewood Ranch High School could have flattened BRHS at the start of its three-game rivalry series with Lakewood Ranch. Braden River's defense floundered and the Mustangs scored the first four runs of the game.
The top of the sixth was a gift from Ranch. The Mustangs committed three errors and Braden River clawed within a single run. In one inning, the Pirates nearly matched their typical scoring output.
"At that moment we're ready to go. We've got to commit to this. We've got to get it, overpower them," infielder Giancarlo Gamboa said. "Once those three runs crossed the plate the lights were, and we were rocking and rolling."
BRHS forced extras with a fourth run in the top of the seventh, then blew Ranch away in the eighth. Gamboa launched a two-run double to right field off relief pitcher Josh Tomlin to put Braden River ahead for the first time and then scored the Pirates' final run. Righty Ryan Duncan worked around a one-out single in the bottom of the frame to cap a three-inning relief appearance and finish off BRHS' 8-4 win.
Braden River (8-3) and the Mustangs (9-4) will meet again Wednesday and Friday as part of a week-long rivalry series. Wednesday's game at 7 p.m. will be televised on Bright House Sports Network.
Both teams' initial bursts were fueled by their own mistakes. Ranch's fifth started with a double, but two of the four runs were unearned because of two errors and a wild pitch. The Pirates scored their first run when Lakewood Ranch committed a pair of errors on the same play, sending Tyler Dyson all the way from first base to home plate.
BRHS also only scored two earned runs and it flustered the Mustangs.
"There was going to be a turning point in the ball game," Ranch head coach Ryan Kennedy said. "It was definitely a different team out there that sixth inning. We kind of played a little bit panicked once some runners got on. If we make some plays, get out of that inning giving up only two runs it's a different story."
Duncan entered to pitch the final three innings, and he made it through while allowing only three hits and striking out three. Pitcher Tom Steier took the loss for Lakewood Ranch after walking three batters and allowing four earned runs in 1 1/3 innings.
Gamboa felt confident in the Braden River's offense once it clawed into the Mustangs' bullpen. He was the first one to get a crack at Steier to lead off the seventh and the junior drew a walk. He moved to second on a wild pitch and darted home on a two-out single by outfielder John Bean, who allowed two earned runs in five innings as the starting pitcher.
An inning later, Gamboa gave the Pirates' offense its final jolt. BRHS broke through for four runs without the aid of any defensive miscues to give Braden River eight straight runs and a come-from-behind victory.
"We just told our guys, 'Hey, it's time to win a game offensively tonight,'" Pirates head coach Craig Page said. "They battled their butts off and it just shows the character."