BRADENTON -- It wasn't long ago that big-armed big-leaguers such as CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett and Francisco Liriano stood where Mike Rupp was standing Monday evening.
Bayshore's senior southpaw was making his first start at McKechnie Field, spring home to the Pittsburgh Pirates and summer home to the high Single-A Bradenton Marauders.
Yeah, he was nervous. And yeah, it showed early, when Rupp walked three of the first four guys he faced.
But Rupp shook off his jitters and his offense gave him plenty to work with, and as the lights over McKechnie were beginning to flicker, the Bruins were toasting a 9-0 non-district win over Saint Stephen's.
"I've been coming here since I was like, 4. Used to have season tickets," said Rupp, who went the distance while allowing six hits, walking four and striking out six. "I was so nervous, playing on
a field I watched so many major-leaguers play on."
After escaping his first-inning jam, Rupp retreated to the home bullpen in left field while the Bruins (10-11) rallied for a four-run first inning. The tinkering worked.
"I've always struggled with command," he said. "Once I started throwing strikes, I started getting into a rhythm. I got confidence after the first inning, got past the first inning unscathed, so I think I settled down after that."
The Bruins kept providing Rupp with more and more support, scoring three runs in the second inning and one each in the third and fourth.
Rupp encountered another tight spot in the fifth when the Falcons (9-11) loaded the bases with one out. But he helped his own cause by fielding Joe Schneider's come-backer and starting a 1-2-3 double play.
"He settled down. That's kind of how he is," said Bayshore coach Ron Hirst.
Jerad Paparella doubled, tripled and drove in two runs, and Daniel Schroeder had two singles, a double, two RBIs and three runs scored for the Bruins. Jayson Clayton added a single, triple and three RBIs for Bayshore, which was the home team on the scoreboard since the game was listed as home on the Bruins' schedule.
Hirst approached Chris Brady, Bayshore's athletic director, on possibly playing a game at McKechnie Field after the grass on the Bruins' home infield died.
"We have a lot of seniors, and I wanted to at least to have one more on a nice field," Hirst said. "We started off with the best field in the county, now there's no grass on the infield. So (Brady) contacted the Pirates, gave them our dates. ... I'm just happy the kids could have a positive experience. They grow up coming to Marauders games and Pirates games; it's great to let them get on the field."
Keith Dunkelberger singled and doubled and Andrew Csubak had two hits for the Falcons.
BRADENTON CHRISTIAN 10, MANATEE HEAT -- Jake Lister pitched a complete game as the Panthers coasted to a shutout win over against the visiting Manatee HEAT.
Brett Hiskes led off bottom of fifth inning with solo homer, giving the Panthers a walk-off victory as a result of the 10-run mercy rule.
Lister allowed two hits and no walks while striking out 10 batters for the Panthers (14-7). Wade Carter added a solo home run for BCS.