The challenge of the annual Sarasota Baseball Classic lies in two tests it provides.
The grueling schedule — four games in four days — requires a winning streak matched only by the state tournament to win. And with no off days, pitching is paramount.
The schedule is made more difficult by the level of competition: Venice, Sarasota, Lynn Haven Mosley and Cantonment Tate are perennial powers, and Sarasota Riverview and Punta Gorda Charlotte are ranked in their classifications.
Manatee caught a break for the first challenge by drawing an opening-round bye Monday. The second is unavoidable, so the Hurricanes’ run at the Sarasota Classic is over after only one day with a 5-0 loss to Venice on Tuesday.
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“There’s always really good teams in the tournament, we always get to play really good teams,” Indians head coach Craig Faulkner said. “It’s always important because it shows that you can win games in a row. You have to win five in a row to win it all at the end and this is four games.”
Manatee (1-7) traveled south to Venice for a quarterfinal against the Indians, who are ranked No. 1 in Class 7A by ThePrepZone.com and No. 4 in all of Florida. A day earlier at Venice High School, the Indians (10-1) no-hit Baylor from Chattanooga, Tenn., in the opening round.
4Venice’s state ranking, according to ThePrepZone.com.
The Hurricanes fared only slightly better: an infield single by outfielder Jamar Smith to lead off the game, a hit batter in the sixth and a single in the seventh.
Head coach Rob Viera declined an interview after the game. The Hurricanes will play in consolation games Wednesday and Thursday.
After Manatee could not convert its hit into a run in the top of the first inning, the Indians’ Jake Starck led off with a walk. A single to right by infielder Kevin Dubrule put runners on first and second with no outs. Two batters later, infielder Shane Shifflett, who has signed with Florida, launched a triple over Smith’s head in center field to score a pair.
“When you score early like that, with the strength of our pitching it’s tough to come back,” Faulkner said.
For the rest of the game, Manatee floundered against pitchers Josh Kinker, who worked four innings, and Eric Schrader, who closed the game.
When you score early like that, with the strength of our pitching it’s tough to come back.
Craig Faulkner, Venice head coach
The Hurricanes kept within striking distance until the fifth inning when infielder Joey Kinker launched a leadoff home run to left fence and the Indians tacked on an error-aided run. That chased starting pitcher Andrew Schrader from the game after allowing seven hits and four earned runs in 4 2/3 innings.
“We didn’t go to our bunting game and things like that,” Faulkner said. “We hit right to some guys. We just let some guys swing.
“We still scored enough runs to feel comfortable with our pitching.”