HIGH SCHOOL BASEBALL
Trenton moves on to state semis
Published: Friday, May 10, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, May 11, 2013 at 12:32 a.m.
TRENTON — After getting the unexpected call to trot from left field to the pitcher's mound, Jonathan Ward did not have to wait long for support in the opening inning of Friday's Class 1A, Region 3 final.
Trailing by an early score, Trenton (25-1) put a power-filled end to its first deficit of the postseason with 13 unanswered runs, including seven by a pair of homers, to claim a 13-1 win against Bronson (14-11) in five innings.
Ward, a junior, tossed 4 2/3 scoreless frames of two-hit relief for starter Corbin Wiggins — who was pulled following three wild pitches leading to the Eagles' lone run — and showed little fatigue in his second straight appearance for the high-scoring Tigers.
“It definitely takes the pressure off,” said Ward. “It makes you able to just pound the zone, instead of having to worry about hitting specific spots. It's exciting. This is the furthest I've ever been, but we're just taking it one game at a time.”
Trenton advances to its first state semifinals appearance in school history and will play Bonifay Holmes County in Fort Myers on Wednesday at either 10 a.m. or 1 p.m.
Before they could book their trip to JetBlue Park however, the Tigers displayed their potent lineup one last time this season at Tiger Field. Led by junior shortstop Stephen Smith, who belted his second consecutive home run of the playoffs in the third inning, Trenton sent six multiple-base hits into the Eagles' outfield.
After scoring three runs with two outs in the first, the Tigers continued their penchant for clutch hitting in the third with Smith sending a bases-loaded shot down the right-field line while facing a pair of outs.
“The majority of our runs were scored with two outs,” Smith said. “So we can hit the ball and we fight no matter the circumstances or what is happening. We just have to keep it going through the state tournament.
The grand slam — part of a five-run inning — gave Trenton a commanding 8-1 lead after being shut out in the second by Bronson starter Tim Gibson (8-7), who threw five innings on 10 hits and seven strikeouts.
While Gibson was coming off a complete-game, three-hitter in Tuesday's 3-1 win over Melody Christian, Eagles coach Allen Strickland said he wasn't concerned with his junior pitcher's arm strength as the game progressed. Strickland instead pointed to his team's inability to track down the long ball.
The Tigers capped their fourth win this season over their District 6 rivals with a fifth-inning, three-run homer from senior catcher Clif Bryant, who also had a double to finish 2-for-4 at the plate.
“We're not talking about bunting or small-balling,” said Strickland, whose team was making its first playoff appearance 2002. “We're talking about hitting the alleys and hitting the lines. You can't defend that. … Tonight, they were a little too much for us. They are a heck of a team.”