LAKEWOOD RANCH -- It has been an up-and-down season for the Lakewood Ranch baseball team.
But for Brad Zunica it's been all up.
In fact, the Mustangs' big first baseman/pitcher had fans looking skyward when the stroked a three-run double and a two-run homer to spark host Lakewood Ranch to a 12-2 victory over Southeast on Friday night.
The junior came into the game with a .478 batting average, seven homers and 23 RBIs. He needed a triple in his last at-bat to hit for the cycle, but a wild pitch scored the runner from third in the bottom of the fifth inning,
and the game was stopped because of the 10-run mercy rule.
"It would've been nice, but the main thing is that we won the game," Zunica said. "I've been hitting well. The coaching staff has really helped me out. They tell me what I am doing wrong. Recently, I had been struggling. I had a little hitch in my swing, and they helped me fix that."
Struggling for the 6-foot-6, 240-pound Zunica is going 1-for-3. But a big improvement has been his power. Last year, at 6-4, 220 pounds, he didn't hit any homers.
Zunica is just enjoying the game now. He has verbally committed to the University of Miami and has turned down offers to visit other high profile programs because he is certain about his choice. They want him to hit and pitch.
"After last season, I hit the weight room hard, and I think that helped (with the homers)," Zunica said. "I like hitting and playing first base better than pitching, but will do anything they ask at Miami. I liked the campus and the coaches, and it's a great program."
Justin Greenaway pitched all five innings for Lakewood Ranch (11-11). The junior right-hander allowed two hits, struck out three, walked two and helped himself with a two-run double. For the Mustangs, Garrett Schultz had a two-run double, and Jack Dunn had two hits and an RBI.
"It's been one of those things, with having just two returning starters back, we are just trying to get our guys experience and get them ready for the playoffs," Lakewood Ranch head coach Ryan Kennedy said. "Brad is a great hitter. He has great plate discipline and is one of those guys who is a threat up there, and with his pop he is able to hit one out at any time. He is also our number one pitcher. We have one goal in mind, which is to make a run at the state title."
It has been a struggle for a young Southeast team, which dropped to 4-16. Dylan Hanohano drove in both runs with a single scoring Sergio Flores, who reached on a single, and Kyle Sylvester, who walked.
"This is really the first time most of our players have had a chance to play on varsity, and it's kind of low baseball knowledge so we are kind of struggling," Southeast head coach Dan Durrance said. "Our guys are battlers. It's just a struggle when you don't have a whole of baseball knowledge on the field. We were so senior-laden the last couple of years that most our kids now were not able to get that experience on varsity. We are trying to get our younger guys playing time."