LUMBERTON — The combination of Florida AAA’s pitching and defense has served it well in the Dixie Youth World Series at the Ray Pennington Athletic complex for the first two rounds, and it didn’t let up on Tuesday night.
Another solid pitching performance from Luis Quintana helped the Florida state champs to down Louisiana 11-1 in five innings, and come out on top in a meeting of the last two undefeated teams in the tournament.
“Any pitcher that I have asked to toe the rubber since I started this deal has stepped up in a big way,” Florida coach Russell Hartley said. “It’s a combination of everything. This team is more than a baseball team, it’s a family.
“That makes it easier for the pitchers to go up there and know that the defense is going to play and they fill up the strike zone.”
With a stout defense and pitchers that pound the strike zone, Florida’s defense has went three games, and the only run it has allowed was on a sacrifice fly in the bottom of the first inning.
After that, it was smooth sailing for Hartley’s team.
Florida went on to score one run in each of the second and fourth innings after hanging a two-spot on the scoreboard in the first inning. Seven runs came home in the top of the fifth to push the game to its final.
The runs were there, and Quintana delivered his second pitching gem of the tournament, using his go-to pitch and letting his defense play behind him.
“It’s been my two-seam fastball right now. It’s working good,” he said. “Everybody has done great. I love all the fielding and I love everything that we do.”
Quintana allowed two hits in his complete game performance and struck out two. With one out left in the bottom of the fifth, he was sitting at 61 pitches. To be allowed to pitch on Thursday, he had to stay under 65 pitches, and when Hartley came out, he had one message for the right-hander.
“You have four pitches, do it in one,” Quintana recalled of the exchange.
He completed the feat and said that he is ready for whenever his coach calls on him to pitch again.
At the plate, Quintana helped his own cause with a triple to score a run in the first inning and then accounted for two RBIs in the seventh.
A.J. Soto Baez had a sac fly in the second inning to push the Florida lead to 3-1, and a wild pitch in the fourth inning plated a run to push the lead to three runs.
The other hit from Florida came from Tyler Turner.
South Carolina awaits Florida on Wednesday at 8 p.m., after it defeated Mississippi 12-0 on Tuesday. As the tournament’s last undefeated team, Hartley knows that his team is “sitting pretty,” but still has a tough test ahead.
“From what I can see, they pitch and play defense well,” Hartley said of South Carolina. ”I look for another good baseball game tomorrow night and we’ve got another one of our better pitchers on tomorrow night.”
North Carolina held off Georgia 6-1 in the other AAA game on Tuesday, and will play Louisiana at 5:30 p.m., in an elimination game
Jonathan Bym can be reached at 910-816-1977 or by email at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @Jonathan_Bym.