Prep Baseball Report

Preseason Classic: TNXL Academy vs. Plam Harbor Recap

Phil Kerber
PBR Florida/JUCO Wire

BRADENTON, FL - Game 2 of the Preseason Classic pitted TNXL Academy against Palm Harbor. In a heated matchup, TNXL used stellar pitching and a two-run sixth inning to overcome Palm Harbor 2-1.

Starting pitchers RHP Jackson Nezuh (TNXL Academy; Florida recruit) and RHP Hunter Mink (Palm Harbor; Florida recruit) came out of the gate firing on all cylinders. Nezuh struckout the first two batters of the game on fastballs and then for the third to flyout to center field, dominating with his 88-90 mph fastball.

On the other side, Mink allowed a first inning double to CF Joe Charles (North Carolina recruit), but followed up with consecutive strikeouts to end the inning. For his part, Mink sat 89-91 mph, touching 92. Mink had some impressive numbers via Trackman as well. With low spin rates around 2000 rpms and an extension at nearly 7-foot, the ball was consistently on top of hitters with late sink, causing the abundance of ground balls.

The back and forth between Nezuh and Mink continued for four innings, with some exceptional defensive plays from both sides mixed in. In his fourth inning, Nezuh allowed the first Palm Harbor runner on base via a walk, Dustin Low. That would be short lived however, when Palm Harbor tried to steal on Florida State recruit C Doug Kirkland. Equipped with more than enough arm strength, Kirkland received the pitch cleanly and fired a missile right to the bag at second base, getting Low by a couple of steps.

Mink was backed up by his twin brother 3B Tanner Mink (South Florida recruit). Tanner accounted for five of the 12 outs in the first four innings of play. Included in those five putouts were some truly spectacular plays where Mink made strong, accurate throws while charging or moving to his right. Hunter exited the game having allowed three hits, zero runs, striking out three and hitting one batter.

With Nezuh out of the game now, Palm Harbor had their chance to strike. A single by Pat Keenan and then an error by the TNXL defense on a Gunner Wilson ground ball, set up second and third with one out. Nick Ficarrotta stepped up to the plate and delivered an RBI single, giving Palm Harbor the 1-0 lead.

After giving his team the lead, Ficarrotta trotted out to the mound to preserve things. Ficarrotta struck the first batter out before issuing a walk and turning over the lineup to leadoff man Jaime Ferrer. Now faced with a riled up TNXL dugout, Ficarrotta did not flinch, rolling up a ground ball double play and getting himself out of the jam.

RHP Hamilton Martinez (FIU recruit) came back out for the sixth inning for TNXL after pitching the fifth. Martinez seemed like a whole new pitcher, especially against the top of the Palm Harbor order. He was able to strike out the side in the top of the sixth, giving the Ducks more momentum heading into the bottom half of the inning.

Ficarrotta was able to retire Charles to begin the inning, but then issued a walk to the speedy Tyrell Brewer (Florida State recruit). Brewer proceed to steal second and third base, but Ficarrotta was able to get Kirkland to strike out looking. Now with two outs and the tying run on third base, Elian Roman (Bethune-Cookman recruit) stepped into the batter's’ box. Roman connected with a pitch, driving it over the shortstops head for a game-tying single. The Ducks weren’t done though. Christian Bernabe (Arkansas-Little Rock recruit) wanted a piece of the action, ripping a ball down the left field line for the go-ahead double, all with two outs.

Finally, Palm Harbor was down to their final three outs, facing closer RHP Casey Daiss. Daiss got the first batter to groundout before allowing Keenan to pick up his second hit of the day. That was, however, all the Palm Harbor offense could muster in the seventh inning. Falling to TNXL by a score of 2-1.

Palm Harbor collected three hits for the entire game, two by Keenan and one by Ficarrotta. TNXL offensively mustered five hits as a team, Charles accounted for two of those hits, while Ferrer, Roman and Bernabe had one apiece.

Palm Harbor is back in action this evening against Central Pointe while TNXL returns to the field on Thursday night to take on IMG Academy.