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No matter the test, Sailors baseball finds winning ways

Sarasota High is 10-2 as of March 27, bringing home victories however it can.

Sailors senior pitcher Tanner Crump holds a 0.87 ERA as of April 25.
Sailors senior pitcher Tanner Crump holds a 0.87 ERA as of April 25.
File photo
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Even the Sarasota Sailors' coach was at a loss for words. 

"Somehow, some way, they find ways to win," Coach Greg Mulhollen said. "I don't know. It's a different way every night."

This particular night — a March 23 contest against Lemon Bay High — left Mulhollen literally scratching his head after completing the handshake line, a small smile spreading across his face. The Sailors, who entered the game 8-2, were playing their third game in three nights and facing a 9-2 Manta Rays team that was relatively fresh. 

Mulhollen said prior to the game that his team was tired. That showed in the first inning, as a fielding error with two outs extended the inning and eventually let a run score. The Sailors would tie the game, but a passed ball scored another Lemon Bay run in the third inning. 

The score would hold at 2-1 until the bottom of the sixth inning, when one swing of a Sailor bat changed the team's fortunes. Senior Tyler Maszak started the inning with a solo home run — the first varsity home run of his career — to tie the game. It broke the Sailors out of their offensive slump: an RBI single from senior Luke Jackson and a two-RBI single from junior Michael Bendever broke the game open. Senior pitcher Tanner Crump closed out a complete game the next inning for a 5-2 win. 

"We're dogs out there," Maszak said after the game. "We're not going to ever give up. We're not losing. We step up in big situations and make big plays." 

Sailors senior Tyler Maszak slides safely into second base.
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There's not much evidence to refute Maszak's claim. In each of their wins, the Sailors have done whatever was required of them on that night. Sometimes, like against Lemon Bay, that meant one particular hitter made a play and sparked a rally. Other times, like in a March 21 win over Braden River High, it meant the entire offense exploded for a 14-2 win. Other games had little to do with offense at all; on March 6 against Charlotte High, Crump threw a complete-game one-hitter, with 10 strikeouts and zero walks in a 2-0 win. He holds a season ERA of 0.54, and the Sailors hold a team ERA of 1.57. 

The team's winning ways are happening in the first year under Mulhollen, who took over the role from high school baseball legend Clyde Metcalf. Mulhollen, who was an assistant with the program last season and previously was the head coach at Cardinal Mooney High, said he credits the team's success with the chemistry the players have. They are not afraid to "go to war for each other," Mulhollen said, which matters more than fans might think. Against Lemon Bay, the team's defense was not as strong as it had been in previous games, but instead of finger-pointing, other aspects of the team made up for the defensive mistakes. In future games, those roles will likely be reversed. 

It's the sign of a team that can beat anyone at any time. But it isn't easy on its coach. 

"If my hair isn't falling out (yet), it's turning gray," Mulhollen said with a laugh. "It's fun to be a part of this, but it sure is stressful." 

Sailors senior Rex Smith is hitting .436 at the dish as of May 2.
File photo

The Sailors' numbers show how difficult it is to face them. Senior Rex Smith leads the team with a .387 average, but five other Sailors regulars have an average of .286 or higher. That consistency throughout the lineup forces opposing pitchers to be at their best all game. One area lacking for the Sailors thus far has been a consistent power threat: Maszak, Jackson and junior infielder/pitcher Bernard Barnes Jr. are tied for the team lead with one home run. 

If the team keeps getting timely hits and dominant pitching, it may not matter. That axiom will be tested in April, as the team will face tough tests like Lilburn, Georgia's Parkview High (15-2)  — a Georgia Class 7A Final Four team in 2022 — and 8-4 Venice High, which handed the Sailors a 1-0 loss on March 9. 

"We can't have an off night," Mulhollen said. "Especially when teams step into this stadium, because they bring their 'A' game." 

As of March 28, the Sailors have played one game since the comeback against Lemon Bay. It was March 27, a road game against district foe Lakewood Ranch High. Sarasota won 3-2 in extra innings, thanks to a Maszak single that scored two runs. The team is now 10-2, with a 4-0 record in extra-inning games. 

The seas may be choppy, but the Sailors continue to navigate them. 



Ryan Kohn

Ryan Kohn is the sports editor for Sarasota and East County and a Missouri School of Journalism graduate. He was born and raised in Olney, Maryland. His biggest inspirations are Wright Thompson and Alex Ovechkin. His strongest belief is that mint chip ice cream is unbeatable.

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