PALMETTO -- In two games against Buffalo Creek in the Florida District 26 Little League All-Star Tournament, Lakewood Ranch exploded for 32 total runs. It made it a quick week for Ranch, which clinched the Majors Division championship Wednesday with a 10-0 win against Buffalo Creek in four innings at Blackstone Park.
But the easiest part of the series for manager John Schroeder was figuring out his pitching. In eight total innings, Lakewood Ranch allowed one hit to sweep the best-of-three championship series and advance to the sectional tournament.
"That's our strong point is our pitching," Schroeder said. "We have a lot of pitching, and that helps tremendously for my part. I have a lot of options on the mound."
Two days after Jake Krug began Game 1 with two no-hit innings, his twin brother, Connor Krug, matched him with two hitless frames of his own. The starting pitcher struck out the first two batters of the game looking
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and added another strikeout to lead off the second before handing the ball to the bullpen for the final two innings.
Relief pitcher Cam Martin worked around a lead-off walk in the third by inducing a double play and then struck out the final batter for a 1-2-3 inning. In the fourth, Chase Yniguez allowed the only hit of the game with two outs, but immediately escaped for another smooth inning.
Yniguez also set the tone for Lakewood Ranch on offense. Two pitches into the game, he blasted a home run over the fence -- his second lead-off homer in as many games -- to spark a four-run first inning.
"That's great when we get a start like that," Schroeder said. "When we get a start like that, it really helps us motivate the kids.
In the second, Nico Hadad led off with a homer as Ranch added four more runs. After a scoreless third inning, Lakewood Ranch scored two more runs to invoke mercy rule and win the district championship game.
Ranch advances to the Section IV tournament July 10-12 in Lake Wales. Lakewood Ranch will begin the sectional tournament July 10 at 8:30 p.m. against the winner of District 25.
"We're gonna build on the momentum we have going forward right now," Schroeder said.
Lakewood Ranch has won District 26 in five of the last six seasons and after falling short of the Little League World Series a year ago, Schroder is confident in his group as it moves beyond Manatee County. Seven members of the team have experience beyond the district tournament and that sort of experience, he said, can be helpful as Ranch advances through the state.
"They've worked hard for a number of years, and it's great for them to get this first win down," Schroeder said. "Now we're looking forward. We've got a long road ahead of us and a lot of work to do, but I'm really excited for the boys to get this one down."