Youth baseball: South Fort Myers routed in pool finale, still advances to Little League state semifinals

After smashing a grand slam, Tate McMenemy (99) is greeted at home plate by his South Fort Myers teammates during a pool play game at the Florida Little League State Tournament on July 28, 2012 at Bill Keller Park in DeBary. South edged Tampa-Bayshore, 12-10. Kevin Johnson/Staff

Photo by KEVIN JOHNSON // Buy this photo

After smashing a grand slam, Tate McMenemy (99) is greeted at home plate by his South Fort Myers teammates during a pool play game at the Florida Little League State Tournament on July 28, 2012 at Bill Keller Park in DeBary. South edged Tampa-Bayshore, 12-10. Kevin Johnson/Staff

DEBARY — The rockets launched by Plant City into the nighttime sky in DeBary didn't faze the South Fort Myers baseball team.

Neither did the lopsided final score.

Despite being whacked by Plant City 18-3 in four innings in a pool round game, South accomplished what it wanted to on Saturday, which was to reach the semifinals of the Florida Little League State Tournament.

South's 12-10 win against Tampa-Bayshore earlier in the day at Bill Keller Park made its nightcap mostly insignificant. In a somewhat bizarre scenario, the only way South would have been sent packing is if it had lost, and scored at least 13 runs.

Needless to say, South's bats were fairly quiet against Plant City, which earned the top spot in Pool A via a three-way runs allowed tiebreaker against South and Bayshore. All three teams went 2-1. South won the head-to-head tiebreaker for second place by virtue of its win against Bayshore.

Today's semifinals at 11 a.m. will pit Plant City against Pool B runner-up Merritt Island, while South, as Pool A's second seed, will meet Pool B winner Windermere.

Rather than run the risk of burning pitchers and perhaps not advancing, South (12-1) wasn't too upset that it had to settle for the No. 2 spot while encountering its first loss of the all-star season. Plant City hit four home runs in a 15-run third inning.

"I didn't want to burn anymore pitching," South manager Wilson Lorenzo said. "I used different guys. That way I can keep my guys going for (Sunday)."

"We'd rather be in second place than going home," said South shortstop/pitcher Grant Boland, who produced one of the few highlights against Plant City with a solo home run after Danny Cunningham hit his second dinger of the day.

The day's key hit for South came from Tate McMenemy, who fouled off a few pitches before he belted a low pitch for a grand slam to center as part of a nine-run third inning that gave South a 9-3 lead against Bayshore.

"Right when I hit it, I thought it was going to hit the fence. Then I heard everybody cheering," McMenemy said. "I was so excited."

But Bayshore launched its own long balls and knotted the game at 9-9.

South escaped a bases-loaded situation when Drew Dwyer tagged out a runner in a rundown in the top of the fifth. In the bottom of the inning, Giovany Lorenzo put South ahead for good with an RBI sacrifice fly to deep center. Boland padded the lead with a two-run single.

If South is to reach Monday night's championship, it will have to hand Windermere its first loss of the tournament.

"We have to play hard," manager Lorenzo said. "They're a tough team. They hit the ball real well. We have to come out strong. It's going to be a big test."

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