Written by Staff Report on April 23, 2014 | Herald-Tribune


Sarasota rallies to beat Lakewood Ranch

SARASOTA, Fla. – Evan Mendoza shook off some early problems, then drove in the last two Sarasota High runs as the Sailors held off Lakewood Ranch High 5-4 Wednesday night in a Class 7A-District 10 baseball semifinal at Drews Field.


Top-seeded Sarasota (23-3) will face Braden River High, a 4-0 winner over North Port High, for the district title Friday at 7 p.m.


Sarasota spotted the Mustangs (10-14) a 3-0 lead before manufacturing three runs in the bottom of the third inning. The Sailors loaded the bases with a hit batsman, a walk and a Mendoza single to chase Mustangs starter Alex Gutowski. Off Justin Fischer, the runs came home on a wild pitch, a pair of infield singles and an error.


“We got the ball on the ground and we were able to score runs,” Sailors coach Clyde Metcalf said. “We made the adjustments to every one they brought in, and we had more success.”


Mendoza (7-1) was off the hook, then the junior right-hander took control. He retired 10 straight at one point. He had some mechanical issues early, but fixed those. “He has ability to make the adjustments, and he did a good job of that,” Metcalf said. “He had better command and kept us in game.”


His bat did the rest. Mendoza singled home Skylar Frey with two out in the fourth inning to give the Sailors their first lead at 4-3. “We’ve been a second-time around team most of the year, so I wasn’t too worried,” Mendoza said. “I got more of a rhythm after that.”


In the sixth, a two-out hustle double by leadoff hitter Tyler Leonard set the stage for Mendoza to drive a Thomas Steier pitch into right field for another RBI single. “I told him to get on base and I’ll back him up (with another hit),” Mendoza said. “I tried to go 4-hole (where the second baseman plays). I was surprised it was open.”


It wound up being a crucial run. Mendoza, who threw 76 pitches, left after allowing a pinch-hit single by Ryan Rampinelli to start the seventh. “That was a giant run,” Metcalf said. “A two-run lead versus a one-run lead was giant. And that was the difference.”


Shane Zipperer greeted Zach McMullen with an RBI double in the seventh. After a two-out walk, McMullen fanned Andrew Giddens to end it. “We made some mistakes early, but our kids kept battling,” said second-year Mustangs coach Ryan Kennedy. “That’s all you can ask for, as a coach. We were in a position to tie it and win the game.”


The Mustangs got the early jump in the first, scoring twice with two out. Colton Chupp singled home a run, then Justin Otis doubled home another. “You want the pressure on them early, so we needed to manufacture runs,” said Kennedy, a member of Lakewood Ranch High’s 2003 state title team. “We swung the bats well, but some just didn’t fall.”


A two-out error in the top of the third made it 3-0, but Mendoza escaped further trouble and got in a groove.


In Metcalf’s 33 years as the head coach, the Sailors have made the playoffs in 25 of those seasons, including 24 of the last 26.