Gulf Coast HEAT Earn First-Ever Win Over Bradenton Christian
The last time these two teams met the result was the same as the rest had been, a lopsided victory for Bradenton Christian. This friendly series had always gone the same way in the win column, but on Saturday that finally changed. Behind a spirited defensive effort and just enough offense the HEAT earned a 2-1 victory over host Bradenton Christian.
“We have played these guys like four or five times in the last two years and we haven’t even come close to beating them,” HEAT Manager Hank Marino admitted. “So I just told these guys, ‘play good defense, timely hitting and smart baseball and we’ll have a competitive game’, and that’s what they did. I’m proud off them; this is probably one of the best defensive games this team has played in three years. It was well-deserved.”
Defense was certainly the theme for both sides, as each team made several nice plays. For the HEAT those plays came at big moments that helped lead to the victory. Shortstop Matt DiLorenzo had a nice glove on several putouts, the biggest coming with a runner in scoring position that ended the bottom of the second. Catcher Noah Henry tracked down two foul pops, including one that recorded the first out in the seventh on a catch that carried Henry hard into the sideline fence.
“I think we just had a huge motivation to win today because we’ve never beaten these guys before,” DiLorenzo said. “We just wanted to play a clean game and I think that was the main motivator for us. The pitcher sets the tone and we all just get in sync with the pitcher. If he is off we are off; if he is on we are on.”
Both pitchers were in control and keeping runs off the scoreboard the first time through the lineup. Starting pitcher Adam Masarik got the start and the win with four shutout frames, as he gave up two hits and two walks and struck out five.
“I was just pounding the strike zone and throwing those away on the two-strike pitches,” Marasik said. “My arm felt good today and my two-seam was moving a little bit more than usual today. I would throw it on the outside half and it would fade away a little bit, so I got those swings. Of course, I threw my changeup in the dirt a lot and I got some swings from that. It is like no other feeling in the world when you are just grooving it in there. It’s a lot of fun.”
Brandenton Christian starter Austin Kessler was perfect the first time through the order and he lasted until there were two outs in the sixth. Kessler took the loss despite allowing no earned runs, with six strikeouts against two hits and a walk.
“Kessler did an awesome job,” Panthers manager Jeff Perkins said. “I think he was in the 85-pitch range in the sixth, which was very nice. He threw strikes and let us make plays. Unfortunately we just couldn’t back him up with the bat.”
By scoring in the fourth to take the lead The HEAT (3-2) also ended a 13-inning scoreless streak that dated back over the past four meeting in the series. Masarik ripped a single up the middle just past the reach of diving second baseman Rob Arakel. A stolen base put Masarik in scoring position and an infield error brought him home for the 1-0 advantage.
Masarik’s hit came at an opportune moment that brought the momentum back to the HEAT’s side. In the previous at bat Panthers left fielder Owen Thomas made a nice running grab to rob a hit from the HEAT’s Ian Hunniford.
Michael Wilson doubled the lead with an insurance run in sixth. The centerfielder sent a two-out single up the middle, stole second and then scored following a pair of passed balls. The left-hander also pitched the final three innings to earn the save.