Bryant completes sweep through Florida tournament for championship
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SANFORD, Fla. — For the fourth time in as many games, the Bryant Hornets got a[more] complete-game performance from a starting pitcher Friday night as they completed a 4-0 sweep to the championship of the Florida League High School Invitational Tournament.
Senior right-hander Caleb Milam took his turn on the bump and scattered seven hits, walked no one and fanned six including the side in the top of the seventh to nail down Bryant’s 4-2 win in the championship game against the East Ridge Knights of Clermont, Fla. For his effort, Milam was named the Pitcher of the Tournament.
In addition, the Hornets’ Landon Pickett, Dylan Cross, Even Jobe and Jordan Taylor were named to the all-tournament team.
“We had four complete games,” emphasized Bryant head coach Kirk Bock. “The guys just did a great job. Milam did an excellent job. He made them put it in play. He got deep on some counts but he was able to battle back.”
Milam’s effort came on the heels of complete game performances by Jordan Taylor, Landon Pickett and Dylan Cross. In 28 innings, the quartet allowed 23 hits and eight walks with 26 strikeouts, posting a 2.75 composite earned run average.
Offensively, the Hornets were led by Evan Jobe and Hayden Lessenberry, who each had two hits. Jobe finished the tournament with a .500 batting average, second only to Javier Baez of Arlington County Day of Jacksonville, Fla., who hit .538.
“We still had some missed opportunities, where we had the bases loaded,” Bock mentioned. “We had one situation where we had them loaded and we had a run in but no one out and we didn’t get any more. We’ve got to get better right there, swinging it with men in scoring position.
“But we ended up with eight hits against some quality pitching,” he added.
The finale was a re-match of Thursday’s pool play contest which Bryant won 4-3. East Ridge tied with the Rogers, Ark., Heritage, for second place but gained the nod in the championship game for allowing fewer runs. Heritage and the Maclay Marauders of Tallehassee, Fla., were the only teams in the tournament Bryant did not face.
“It was a very good experience,” Bock said of the tournament. “We played quality teams. East Ridge, they’ve got 3,200 kids in their high school and they’re very well coached. They do a very good job.”
The Knights grabbed the lead in the top of the first inning on Friday as their first three batters reached base. Jack Curtis led off the game with a double to right then scored on a single by Billy Dunn. Andrew Ornes singled to put men at second and third for clean-up hitter Esmerlyn Pena.
In a battle that included a pair of two-strike fouls, Milam struck him out. Austin Rodriguez flew out to Hayden Daniel in right and Dunn tagged and went to third. But the Hornets picked off Ornes at first to end the inning trailing only 1-0.
Lucas Castleberry singled and Taylor was hit by a pitch with one out, but the Knights turned a doubleplay to get out of the inning. After Milam worked a 1-2-3 second, the Hornets took the lead. Pickett led off with a single to right and, an out later, Jobe bounced one the other way as well. Lessenberry loaded the bases with a sharp grounder to left for a hit. Marcus Wilson came on to run for Lessenberry then Daniel reached on an error that got Pickett home. Jobe scored moments later on a groundout by Tyler Nelson to make it 2-1.
Milam pitched around a three-base error with two down in the top of the third and the Hornets added on. Taylor doubled to left and tagged up on Cross’ long flyout. With Taylor at third, Pickett delivered a sacrifice fly to make it 3-1.
Pena led off the top of the fourth with a single but the Hornets turned a doubleplay and the inning ended with a fly to Jobe by Adam Ordonez.
Jobe then led off the bottom of the inning with a single. Lessenberry followed with his second hit, sending Jobe to third. Daniel walked to load the bases with no one out and Nelson singled in the run.
But Geraldo Coriano, on in relief of starter Blake Crowell wriggled out of the jam to keep it 4-1.
East Ridge trimmed a run off the margin in the top of the fifth. Chris Brinson singled but Milam retired the next two. Curtis, however, cracked a single to left to drive in the run.
Eric Birklund relieved for the Knights and retired the Hornets in order in the bottom of the fifth as he and Milam began to duel. A lead-off single by East Ridge’s Jason Reffitt came to naught in the sixth then Birklund worked around a walk to Lessenberry and an error that allowed Nelson to reach.
Milam finished in style in the seventh as the Hornets secured the championship.