TAMPA – It took three fresh bruises and a questionable call, but the Steinbrenner baseball team defeated King 3-2 in 8 innings at Jefferson High School, to clinch a spot in the second round of the 32nd annual Saladino Tournament.

The Warriors (7-5) trailed by a pair of runs early, but stormed back in the sixth inning to tie the game at two apiece. Thanks to a a couple lofty unearned scores given up by the Lions (6-6).

When the Warriors left the bases loaded in the bottom of the seventh inning, junior pitcher Logan Lapace came in and dominated the King lineup, leaving it hitless headed into the bottom of the extra frame.

After King plunked three straight batters to reload the bases with two outs, sophomore centerfielder Kevin Merrell, who was 0-4 going into the at-bat, laid down a ground ball base hit to second base. What would seem like a routine out to extend the game, junior Cole Gordon slid into the bag and was called safe by the umpire.

“Usually that’s a bang-bang play. You usually see that they’re going to call him out because it’s so close,” Lions coach Jim Macaluso said.

The decision sent the Lions dugout into a fuery and gave Steinbrenner the victory.

King starter Matt O’Malley pitched 6 1/3 innings and allowed four hits and no earned runs while striking out three. When he left in the seventh, the score was tied.

Later in the day, Brooks-DeBartolo defeated Robinson, 10-6, forcing a three-way tie atop the Pool D standings. However, since Robinson scored against Brooks, the Warriors were allowed to move on as the group champion after the tiebreaker.

The Warriors, who lost to Brooks on Saturday, but beat Robinson on Monday morning, move on to play Wharton in the second round on March 14 at 4 p.m. in Brandon.

Jeff Odom / Sports Editor

For continuous tournament updates throughout the break, follow Jeff Odom on Twitter, @JeffO_LutzNews

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