ST.PETERSBURG -- Give it to Jon Aragon. He knows how to pick the right place and the right time to celebrate.
The Manatee senior blasted a three-run homer and had an RBI triple to spark the Hurricanes to a 9-1 victory over St. Petersburg in a Class 8A-District 8 semifinal Tuesday at Huggins-Stengel Field.
The venue is the same complex the New York Yankees used in the days of Babe Ruth under manager Miller Huggins.
It's a spacious field for high school baseball, and the homer Aragon blasted over the left-center field fence would've surely gotten the respect of the Babe, traveling about 380 feet.
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This was Aragon's first home run in high school, but you couldn't tell from the power he unleashed. His home run trot wasn't bad, either.
Aragon smashed an RBI triple in the fourth when third-seeded Manatee scored three runs to wipe out a 1-0 deficit against the second-seeded Green Devils. The other two runs came on base-loaded walks.
"If there is a kid who has worked harder on his swing, driving the ball up the middle, I don't know," Manatee head coach Rob Viera said. "The triple in the coach's point of view was a better at-bat. He stayed back and let the ball travel. They threw him in and he unloads on them. He has been really working on keeping his hands to the ball in the middle and it paid off today."
The victory moves the Canes (18-8) into the district final at 7 p.m. Thursday at home against Riverview and keeps them alive for at least two more games.
"I saw the ball real well today and all week worked on trying to get my hands to the ball," Aragon said. "I wasn't trying to hit it out. I just saw a first pitch change-up and tried to put it in play. On the triple, I tried to the same thing, keep the ball in play and kept on running."
The Canes broke the game open in the fifth. Einar Diaz and Jacob Dominick led off the inning with singles and Aragon unloaded his monstrous shot.
Manatee got what it needed from starting pitcher Chase Diaz, who went 5 1/3 innings and struck out four while allowing six hits and one walk. The run for St. Petersburg (8-16) was unearned. He won his team-leading seventh game and reduced his ERA to 2.05.
"He gave us what needed, absolutely," Viera said. "He threw 80 pitches, kept the ball down all game except for the fastballs we called up and hit his spots and battled. He threw the ball good."
Aragon went 2-for-3 and raised his batting average to .274. Diaz, the Canes' leading hitter at .388, went 2-for-4 and scored a run. Robert Rew went 1-for-4, had two RBIs and scored two runs.
In relief, Garrett Richelieu worked 2/3 of an inning and didn't allow a base runner, and Eric Crawford gave up one hit and struck out one in one inning.