WESLEY CHAPEL – The Steinbrenner baseball team knocked off Wiregrass Ranch and claimed the Class 7A-District 9 lead with its 9-4 win over the Bulls on March 23.
Senior pitcher Chris Williams, a St. Leo University commit, went 5.1 innings while striking out four batters en route to his third win of the season.
“It’s about time,” Williams said. “It’s been a wild ride so far this year. I think we have a very good team and all of the guys are great and early on we struggled a little bit, but we’ve really pulled it together these past couple weeks.”
The Warriors (9-6) didn’t waste much time getting to Bulls (11-3) pitcher Ryan Kapenski (4-2, 2.67 ERA) as the hit parade began early in the third inning. With shortstop Stone Ramsey standing on third base, centerfielder Kevin Merrell busted a double down the first base line to score the senior and give the Warriors an early advantage.
Steinbrenner coach John Crumbley said the game plan was to take advantage of every scoring situation given to his team.
“What we’ve done the last two district games against Freedom and Wiregrass, is having a lot more quality swings throughout the game,” Crumbley said. “The little things that we try to work on have worked in situations and the kids have come through.”
With his team up by four in the fourth inning, Williams faced a tough task with two runners on and one out. But after the Bulls’ Joel Marin moved both into scoring position, Williams used a heavy dose of movement in his pitches sending his counterpart, Kopenski, back to the dugout with his third strikeout of the evening.
“I never have like a 1-2-3 inning, ever, so anytime I get into the jam, I’m used to it by now,” Williams said. “I just told myself ‘take a deep breath and just make the pitch’. That’s my mindset right there.”
In the top of the sixth, the Warriors would begin to pull away from the Bulls as they tacked on four more runs to the scoreboard and chased two different pitchers out of the game. Junior designated hitter Cole Gordon started the inning with a solo home run. It gave his squad the momentum it needed to keep scoring as Steinbrenner loaded the bases twice in the inning, thanks to a pair of walks and two base hits.
Crumbley said his team knows it doesn’t have much time left to get wins before the district tournament in April and has to stay focused.
“I just think we’ve done the little things we preach in practice and we’ve done them better this week,” Crumbley said. “If you can’t be fired up to come out here and play the game, because it’s going to end for everybody sooner or later then I don’t know what I can tell you.”
Williams adds the team has to stay consistent to keep its No. 1 seed.
“We definitely have to do the same thing we’ve been doing,” Williams said. “We have the guys that can hit the long ball, and we just have to get guys over. We didn’t do that at the first part of the season, but recently we have and we’ve been very successful with that.”
Next up, the Warriors will host Chamberlain and the Bulls will travel to district rival Freedom on March 27. Both games start at 7 p.m.
—All stats as recorded to Maxpreps.com by coaches