BRADENTON -- Base-running blunders. Bizarre double plays. Bobbled grounders and mishandled throws.
In the middle of a madcap baseball game Tuesday night stood Weston Davis, Manatee's hard-throwing ace and the game's stabilizing force.
He was the difference in the Hurricanes' 8-2 win over Riverview, which gives Manatee (7-5, 4-1) the top seed when the Class 8A-District 8 tournament gets underway April 22.
"He has matured and matured all year," coach Rob Viera said. "He's doing all the things he's supposed to be doing as the big-time pitcher. ... This year, he's like, 'I got you.' He's got his team's back, and that's nice to see as a leader."
Davis shut down the Rams after allowing a pair of unearned runs in the first inning, striking out seven and scattering four hits on 73 pitches.
He pitched out of a big-time jam in the fourth, when the Rams loaded the bases with none out and Manatee leading 3-2. Riverview's Joseph Robustelli hit a liner right to Canes shortstop Tony Diaz, who was playing in on the grass. Diaz dropped the drive, but got the force at home before Manatee catcher Joseph Aragon completed the double play by forcing the runner at third. Davis got the next batter, Trent Sinkfield, to bounce out, emphatically flipping the ball toward the pitcher's mound after quelling Riverview's last rally of the night.
"It gets me a little bit more pumped," said Davis, who has signed with Florida but is waiting to see what happens in the June draft. "I like the excitement, I like the intense games. Also, it's a team effort. And the team all sticks together to get the job done."
Manatee manufactured runs early. Diaz scored the first run on Jake Dominick's first-inning fielder's choice when he danced out of a rundown, and Max Moneuse drove in the equalizer on a groundout to short.
And the Canes took the lead for good in the second, when Diaz's fielder's choice scored Chase Diaz.
"Coming out and being aggressive and putting the
ball in play -- you put the ball in play, and things happen," said Viera, whose team scored one run in its previous two games and was no-hit at Palmetto last week. "(Tuesday) we got it in our mindset that we were going to have a good approach at the plate -- jump on it when he gives you a fastball."
Manatee blew the game open in the sixth, scoring five runs on RBIs from Kevin Acevedo, Tony Diaz and Dominick and three Rams' errors.
Tony Diaz finished with three hits, two RBIs and two runs; Khalyd Cox had two hits; and Aragon had two hits, scored twice and reached base three times.
And now Manatee has the top seed for the district tournament.
The Hurricanes host Eagle's View out of Jacksonville on Thursday before participating in next week's Sarasota Baseball Classic.
"Four-team district: Win one, you're in the playoffs," said Viera, who won a district title while coaching at Saint Stephen's. "It's a nice little set up for us, because now we can see what happens."