EAST MANATEE -- Because he rarely sits still, Max Moneuse has earned a unique nickname from Manatee's coaching staff: Hair On Fire.
"He doesn't have any speed," said Hurricanes head coach Rob Viera, "besides overdrive."
Yet when he stands on the hill, Moneuse would rather induce grounders than throw heat. It worked Tuesday night, when the righty with the submarine delivery tossed 2 2/3 innings of scoreless relief in a 5-3 nine-inning, non-district win over Braden River.
"I'm not going to be a guy that overpowers somebody," Moneuse said. "I'll just be a guy who has a lot of movement and gets ground balls."
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After starting the game at
third, Moneuse relieved P.J. Reed in the seventh with two out, one on and Manatee up 3-2. The first batter he faced, Brian Dillingham, hit a grounder that was bobbled by Canes' shortstop Orlando Ruiz which loaded the bases. Tristan Burdette followed and hit a chopper back to Moneuse, who threw home to record the force.
But the throw to first by catcher Jonathan Aragon short-hopped first baseman Jake Dominick, allowing Derrick Cozzette to score from second. Moneuse got Matt Parrill on another ground ball back to him, however, ending the inning.
The Pirates never got another base runner.
Manatee, which was 0-3 against county schools heading into Tuesday, bounced back in the ninth, taking a 5-3 lead on a single by Khalyd Cox and a sacrifice fly by Dominick, the latter of whom homered in the second.
Reed struck out six and allowed an earned run in 6 1/3 innings, Robert Rew also hit a home run for the Hurricanes (10-10) and Cox had three hits and scored run.
"He's finally starting to get some notice," Viera said of Cox, he also had three putouts in center, "getting a couple of junior colleges out looking for him."
The Pirates (10-11) got a big night out of Cozzette, who had three hits, an RBI, a stolen base and two runs scored. And reliever Justin Guerrero retired the first five batters he faced, including two by strikeout with two on in the top of the seventh, before Manatee got to him in the ninth.
"To come up in that ninth inning and score two runs off a guy throwing gas, it's big for these kids," Viera said. "Hopefully, it's a momentum builder."
Though the game had no bearing on the district playoffs, which begin in less than two weeks, the large crowd coupled with the presence of Bright House Sports Network, which broadcast the game live, gave the night a posteason feel.
The players felt it, too.
"It was exciting. You got Bright House, and a lot of us know a lot of kids on these teams. We've played with them," Moneuse said. "It's a county game, so it's even bigger."