Parkview’s baseball team spent spring break on the Gulf Coast this week and swept four of Flordia’s better teams.
The Panthers allowed just one run in 28 innings with victories against Jesuit (3-0), Sarasota (2-0), Venice (5-0) and IMG Academy (4-1). The Panthers used eight pitchers, and only one pitched more than once.
The four starters - Braden Hays, Cody Collett, Caleb Mitchell and Robert Bennett - have something in common.
‘’We have four lefty starters right now, all throwing 84 to 88 mph, and all of them are three-pitch guys,’’ Parkview coach Chad Brown said. “They are pretty good at their craft and keep the ball down, and we were able to play pretty good defense behind them.’’
In the opener, Hays pitched 6 2/3 scoreless innings before Jarrett Embry came in to get the final out. Jesuit, out of Tampa, entered 18-2 and ranked No. 7 in Florida’s Class 6A. Hays, who is committed to Georgia Southern, improved to 6-0 and lowered his ERA to 1.76. He has 43 strikeouts in 30 innings.
Next was Sarasota, the No. 7 team in Class 8A. Collett, who has signed with North Georgia, pitched the only complete-game shutout, a three-hitter with seven strikeouts. It was only the third start for Collett, who is 4-0 with an 0.36 ERA.
Against Venice, ranked No. 2 in 7A, Mercer signee Mitchell (5 innings) and relievers Mason Bernard and Brad Stanley (1 inning apiece) teamed on a 1-hitter and struck out 10. Mitchell, who was Parkview’s record-setting quarterback last fall, is now 6-1 with an 0.79 ERA.
In the finale, against IMG on Thursday, Bennett (4 IP), Embry (2 IP) and Spencer Chapman (1 IP) pitched a combined three-hitter. Bennett is 4-1 with a 2.01 ERA. Embry has a team-leading 11 appearances and three saves and an 0.49 ERA. IMG is rated the No. 5 team overall in Florida and is coached by former Cincinnati Reds All-Star Chris Sabo.
‘’We were going down to play the best teams we could play,’’ Brown said. “We saw 88 to 92 [mph] mph every game [from opposing pitchers]. We just went down with a purpose. We wanted to go 4-0. That was our goal, and our kids just ran with it.’’
Parkview’s top hitter for the week was shortstop and leadoff hitter Isaiah Byars, who was 7 for 16. Byars, a junior who has committed to Alabama, played last season at Oakleaf High in Orange Park, Fla., on the other coast.
Left fielder and No. 3 hitter Joey DeMasi, committed to North Georgia, was 5-for-10. Catcher and No. 2 hitter Logan Cerny, committed to Troy, got a hit in each game.
Parkview (21-3) has won 14 straight since a 4-2 loss to Cullman, the No. 3 team overall in Alabama, in March. Parkview has won six state titles, most recently in 2015.
‘’Our philosophy has been the same for a long time,’’ Brown said. ‘’Some of our teams hit better than others, but we always base it on pitching and defense, and that’s been pretty good for us. Hopefully we’ll keep throwing strikes and making routine plays.’’