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Paladins Blow Early Lead, Rebound To Beat Bengals 8-6

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Piper nails a runner stealing second.

One if the big disappointments for Broward high school baseball fans over the past few years has been the elimination of mandatory district match-ups during the regular season.

Many critics of the move point to the elimination of these games as a reason that rivalries are dying in todays high school game.

On Tuesday night, Piper and South Plantation reminded us all of how exciting these district games can be during the season.

Although not mandated to play, the Paladins and Bengals squared off in one of the most exciting games of the 2023 season so far.

The Paladins built leads of 2-0, and 6-1, before seeing the Bengals storm back to tie the game at six in the fifth inning. In the end, South Plant was able to battle through the furious Bengals comebacks, scoring two runs in the top of the seventh, and then holding on for an 8-6 win.

“Obviously with this being a team we may see down the road in the playoffs, this was a big win for us,” said Paladins Manager Trevor Chang. “One thing this team has is a fighting spirit. They showed that tonight.”

Paladins pick up their first win of the season.

Early on it looked like South Plant would cruise to the win. They scored two runs in the top of the first, highlighted by a Caleb Thomas single.

After Piper broke through with a run in the fifth, the Paladins sent eight batters to the plate in the top of the fifth, scoring four runs, and extending their lead to 6-1.

Tanner Jenkins, A.J. Campi, who also was the starting pitcher, Gustavo Villegas, Julian Arango, and Noah Robaina, all had singles in the inning. Andrew Gollan added an RBI triple in the frame.

In the bottom of the fifth, the Bengals offense finally got going, sending 11 batters to the plate, and scoring five runs to even the score at six.

“It was nice to see these guys battle today,” said Bengals Manager Colby Costanzo. “They easily could have packed it in when we fell behind, but they showed the ability to fight through a tough start to the game.”

In the sixth, neither team was able to muster any runs.

To start the seventh, Campi doubled, followed by a Villegas single. Suddenly the Paladins had runners on the corners. Thomas gave South Plant the lead back at 7-6 with an RBI single. Julian Arango then hit a one-out single to extend the lead to 8-6.

From there, Elijah Pierce, who worked around a one-out walk in the sixth, closed out the Bengals. After an error, a popout and a walk, Pierce induced a game-ending double play, sending the Paladins to their first win of the season.

“It’s always good to get a win,” said Chang. “We have a lot of young guys, and with some of the guys we lost to transfers and other issues, it has been challenging. But these guys keep fighting, and I am looking forward to getting better as we move through the season.”

Roman Storey delivers a pitch for the Bengals.

Piper, a young team as well with a first-year coach, is also looking towards the future.

“We are just getting started with what we are trying to build here,” said Costanzo. “These games are always important because this is a team we will likely see again in districts, and seeing how they play is always a benefit later in the year. We just have to keep working with our guys, and have them keep getting better as the season goes along.”

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