SARASOTA - The memory of last year's Cardinal Mooney-Braden River baseball game is still fresh in John Carlock's mind.
Carlock's Braden River Pirates were a few games into their first season when they met the Cougars during the Early Bird Tournament at McKechnie Field. The Cougars were a seasoned bunch on their way to the regional playoffs.
"We were a little bit in awe of them," Carlock said. "They hit some fly balls - I don't know if they ever came down."
What Carlock does know is his team of youngsters has grown up, which the Pirates showed during Wednesday's 11-3 victory over the host Cougars. Cardinal Mooney (8-4) began the game ranked third in Class 3A, but Braden River had little trouble upping its record to 6-5.
The Cougars made their own misfortune, committing six errors. But the Pirates were opportunistic, needing just nine hits to score their runs.
"These guys feel like they can play with anybody on any day," Carlock said. "We hit the ball well (Wednesday). We put the ball in play."
Fronting the offensive attack was Austin Pearson (3-for-4 with an RBI), Kyle Phillips (a two-out, two-run double in the fifth) and Blayne Lee (an RBI and a run scored).
Marc Monroe made it stand up. The lefty wasn't dominating, striking out just three and retiring the side in order twice. But he trusted his defense and pounded the strike zone, walking just one and throwing 61 of his 100 pitches for strikes.
"I was comfortable with it. I thought I pitched pretty good," said Monroe, who won his first game of the season. "I let the defense do some work. I have a good defense behind me."
Jace Brown homered and drove in two runs for the Cougars.
Carlock hopes the victory builds the confidence of his young team, which is 4-2 in district play and hosts Class 4A-District 10 foe Wauchula Hardee on Friday night.
"It's a young group," Carlock said. "As we keep playing, it will get better."
Braden River 022 043 0 - 11 9 3
Cardinal Mooney 011 100 0 - 3 7 6
WP - Marc Monroe (1-3). LP - T.J. Kwarcinski (1-1). 2B - Blayne Lee, Kyle Phillips (Braden River). HR - Jace Brown (Cardinal Mooney). Team records: Braden River 6-5, Cardinal Mooney 8-4.