SEBRING — Pool Paradise dispatched Hornick Homes by a score of 11-0 in only four innings Thursday night in the semifinals of the Dixie Ozone City Tournament at the Max Long Sports Complex.
“That makes us 12-0 on the season now,” said Pool Paradise coach Anthony Gaines. “We hit a lot of hard balls, even the ones that don’t go over the fence, are rockets. We did good and we just gotta’ do it one more night.”
Pool Paradise played Sebring Rotary on Friday night for the Ozone City Championship. Results weren’t available at press time, but be sure to read Sunday’s Highlands Today sports section for the complete story and photos.
Drew Morris paced a potent Pool Paradise offense on Thursday night, blasting two home runs to guide his team into the championship.
Leading 1-0 with a runner on first, Morris sent the first strike he saw over the fence in center field. Brian Napier and Junior Algate followed with singles, and Kameion Taylor plated Napier with an RBI ground out to cap the opening inning.
Desmond Gaines started on the mound for Paradise, breezing through the first two innings. With Paradise back at the plate in the bottom of the second, Gaines smashed a two-run double to plate Michael Batterbee and Anthony Burch.
Now leading 6-0, Gaines handed the ball over to Napier, who retired the side in the top of the third.
Nick Piccionne scored Algate with an RBI single to open the third, but Hornick Homes responded with the defensive play of the game. With the bases loaded, LJ Daniels exploded from his catcher’s stance at home plate, securing a high-arching pop fly from Paradise’s Anthony Burch just before it hit the infield dirt. Cognizant of the runner at third, Daniels turned and zipped the ball to teammate Paul Gallagher, who tagged Piccionne to complete the double play.
Hornick Homes seemed primed to capitalize on its defensive momentum, drawing consecutive walks to open the top of the fourth. Despite getting a runner over to third with only one out, Pool Paradise clamped down on defense, holding Homes scoreless one final time.
In the bottom of the fourth, Morris triggered the 10-run mercy rule with a booming three-run homer, his second blast of the game. Zach Doorlag led off with a double, and Gaines followed with a walk to set the stage for Morris.
Pool Paradise has survived all season unscathed thanks to its superlative hitting, and Anthony Gaines is hoping his team’s bats stay hot against Rotary.
“We just need to come out and stick to the game plan,” Gaines said, whose team finished second in last year’s city tournament. “We have yet to play a full game against Rotary. The first two were both rained out. And they’re putting it together, figuring out their pitching, but our guys are prepared for the finals. We’ll be ready.”
This year’s Ozone district tournament will stay in Sebring, but the state tournament will be played in Spring Hill (Hernando County) at the Veteran Memorial Park.