Metcalf misses first game since 1982 and Sailors win to advance

Written by Donnie Wilkie on May 4, 2013 | Herald-Tribune


STEWART, Fla. - Through all of 32 springs, 987 baseball games and who knows how many bunt signals, pinch hitters and pitching changes, Clyde Metcalf has been there.


Until Saturday.


Sarasota High’s legendary baseball coach, attending daughter Robyn’s graduation from Florida State University, was officially marked as “absent” for the first time since taking the job in 1982. His Sailors, however, rolled to a business-as-usual, 6-1 road victory over South Fork in a Class 7A-Region 3 quarterfinal.


Brandon Chapman’s two home runs — a two-run blast in a four-run third inning and a solo shot in the seventh — earned Sarasota (21-6) a fourth opportunity against Venice in Tuesday’s semifinals.


So much was the same. But so much was different. Metcalf’s 52 state playoff wins put him ahead of all but seven Florida "schools" all-time.


“He’s a family guy,” said Mark Aschenbrenner, a 25-year assistant who filled Metcalf’s sizable managerial shoes for a day. “I’m sure it was a painful decision for him, but he was going to do what’s best for his family, which is to see his baby daughter graduate from Florida State.


“I feel good that he had the confidence in the rest of the staff to come over here and get a W.”


A rainout Thursday caused Metcalf (783-204 with five state titles from 1987-96 and a sixth in 2007) to make a difficult choice. Now all that remains is figuring out a way around the Indians, who have outscored the Sailors 11-2 and shut them out twice, including 3-0 in the 7A-District 11 final.


Venice easily dispatched Sebastian River 8-1 in a Thursday quarterfinal.


“It’s definitely a little different looking down the third-base line and not seeing him,” said designated hitter Dylan White, who was 3-for-4, stole two bases, scored two runs and drove in Sarasota’s second run with a third-inning, line-drive single to right field. “But our whole team was focused on Venice. We came here to do our business and that’s what we did.”


Chapman followed White’s RBI single with his two-run homer to left-center off Bulldogs left-hander Jason Popovich, who was roughed up for 10 hits in seven innings. The seventh-inning encore gave Chapman (.333, 18 RBI) four homers for the season.


Popovich had retired seven of the first eight batters he faced.


“I think it was just seeing (Popovich) one more time,” Chapman said. “Our first at-bats, we were taking good swings, we just weren’t squaring up the way we’d like. The second at-bat, we just erupted.”


Zach McMullen walked and Dylan Busby singled to right-center with one out in the third, before Jason Sierra’s RBI groundout brought White to the plate.


Chapman, Busby and Evan Mendoza each added two hits for the Sailors.


Mendoza (four hits, six strikeouts in five innings) and Josh Knies (four strikeouts in two perfect innings) kept South Fork (15-11) guessing from the start, allowing only four hits. The Bulldogs’ only run came in the bottom of the fifth, when Brando Centrone singled to left and later scored on an error.


White had led off the Sailors’ fifth with a single, stole second, moved to third on a fly ball and scored on a throwing error to make it 5-0.


“Whenever you’ve got a lead, there’s a lot less stress,” said the right-handed Mendoza, who is 5-1 with a 0.99 ERA in 10 starts. “That’s when I succeed, when I don’t think about it. I was just throwing curve balls and getting ahead in the count.”


Just what Metcalf would have ordered.


“These guys have been well-prepared all year long,” Aschenbrenner said. “I’ve been Clyde’s assistant for 25 years and we’ve all been together . . . Clyde, Eddie (Howell), Ted (Lyke) and I. We all think the same and we all have the same philosophies, so it really wasn’t a big deal.


“We talk about hitting the ball the other way. We talk about putting pressure on the defense, putting (baserunners) in motion, and those are the things we did today.”


"It may be about a situation that just occurred on the field, someone was out of position. Late in the game we may bring them together and say, 'All right, we have to get a man on base. If we get a man on base, guys, we are playing for a run. Mentally start preparing yourself for that. We're going to bunt or hit-and-run. If we get a man on second base, you have to hit the ball to the right side of the infield to move him up.' ... It's man-on-man, let's go get him and see what happens. That's, to me, baseball."


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