Region baseball: Leto gets out of jam after jam to advance

Gaither has its chances (many chances), but the Falcons are the victors, 5-2.
Leto senior Javy Hernandez, right, gives a high five moments after scoring the first run in a Class 7A region semifinal against Gaither. (SCOTT PURKS | Special to the Times)
Leto senior Javy Hernandez, right, gives a high five moments after scoring the first run in a Class 7A region semifinal against Gaither. (SCOTT PURKS | Special to the Times)
Published May 19

TAMPA — Time and again, Leto put itself in a tight spot only to find some way to save the moment, and ultimately the victory, 5-2 over Gaither in a do-or-die Class 7A region semifinal Saturday night.

In five of the seven innings, in fact, Gaither put runners in scoring position and in three of those innings the Cowboys had the bases loaded.

Many times it was because Leto (22-6) walked a bunch of Cowboys (nine total) or hit Cowboys with a pitch (four total).

Falcon reliever Javy Hernandez, for instance, walked seven Cowboys and hit two in his 3.2 innings of relief. Hernandez, however, also struck out eight, including three to end innings.

[ MORE BASEBALL: Jesuit knocks out defending state champ ]

“I never got nervous about it,” said Hernandez, an infielder who has come in a few times this season to relieve on the mound. “I feel it’s up to me. I’m a captain and I want the ball because I want it to be on me. I feel like I need to lead.”

Leto coach JJ Pizzio said he, “didn’t necessarily want (Hernandez) to walk the bases loaded every inning, but I was happy he stepped up when he needed to.”

The Falcons also made a couple of key throw outs at the plate in those bases-loaded situations and made a couple of nifty defensive gems as well in that stretch (see Leto first baseman Mike Comacho sprinting to the rightfield, leaping and snagging a ball over the fence for a key out).

[ MORE BASEBALL: Plant City rallies in the seventh inning ]

At the plate, Hernandez also was key, going 1-for-3 with a run scored, along with Comacho, who also went 1-for-3 with a run scored.

Lefty Franklyn Hernandez started the game and went 3.1 innings — having to stop for more than 30 minutes when the lights went out for some mysterious power outage — before giving way to Javy Hernandez.

“I thought (Franklyn Hernandez) might have been a little flat after the break when the lights went out,” Pizzio said. “Plus Gaither had seen Franklyn several times this season. That’s why I made the switch to Javy, even though he usually doesn’t throw that many innings."

Region finals

Games at 7 p.m. Wednesday

8A: Plant City at Seminole

8A: Tallahassee Chiles at Strawberry Crest

7A: Osceola at Venice

7A: Viera at Leto

6A: Cape Coral Mariner at Dunedin

6A: Dunnellon at Jesuit

5A: Melbourne CC at Lakewood

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