PALMETTO -- The back-to-back home runs Palmetto crushed to start the second inning of its Florida District 26 Little League All-Star tournament opener against Manatee West were only the start of its offensive barrage.
Playing at its home Blackstone Park, Palmetto sealed a spot in the final two of the intermediate division by pounding Manatee, 14-4.
Manatee West will play Braden River at 11 a.m. Saturday in an elimination game at Blackstone. The winner will have to beat Palmetto twice to win the championship, while Palmetto will only have to win once because of the tournament's double-elimination format. Friday is an off day at the Little League All-Star tournaments.
"We've got a couple big hitters on our team," manager Matt Mathews said. "Four different kids hit home runs for us tonight, so everything went well."
After lightning delayed the start of Thursday's games an hour and 15 minutes to 8:15 p.m., Lee Mathews, the manager's son, and Trace Goforth went back-to-back in the top of the second to push Palmetto ahead, 2-1.
Palmetto never trailed again.
Calvin Sauerbeck and Matthew Wagner also added home runs for Palmetto, and Wagner went back-to-back with Mathews in the top of the fifth to stretch the lead to 9-1.
"The second one was probably the first home run I've ever seen," Matt Mathews said of his son's second bomb. "It's out in that cow pasture somewhere."
"They're not gonna find that one ball," one of his players chimed in.
Mathews also pitched four innings for Palmetto to pick up the victory.
A day after needing a walk-off to win its opening game of the 9/10 All-Star tournament, Buffalo Creek became the first team in the division to win two games in more convincing, relaxing fashion. Buffalo Creek emptied the bench early and used a strong start from pitcher Chris Conboy to beat Manatee National 14-1 in a four-inning, mercy rule-shortened victory.
"We had contributions from the subs who came in," manager Tommy Jomisko said. "We got everybody in. Everybody got a lot of playing time, which was great."
Buffalo Creek jumped out to a 10-0 lead after two innings before Manatee finally broke through in the top of the third with a double, single and error.
Conboy lasted three innings while allowing just the one run before Rylan Jomisko, the manager's son, shut the door with three strikeouts in the top of the fourth to end the game after an offensive eruption.
"We just hit it where they weren't," Tommy Jomisko said. "Some games you hit it right at people and sometimes you it where they're not. Today we hit it where they weren't."
Buffalo Creek will now play Manatee American at 7 p.m. Saturday after Manatee beat Palmetto 13-2 in another four-inning game.
Manatee National will play Braden River at 11 a.m. on Saturday in an elimination game. Palmetto will do the same against Lakewood Ranch. Both Braden River and Ranch lost their first games Wednesday.