TAMPA — Plant needed to shake things up a little. After capturing the Saladino Tournament title last week, the Panthers dropped games this week to Sickles and Steinbrenner. So, entering a district game against Bloomingdale on Friday, Panthers coach Dennis Braun adjusted his lineup, moving junior Ryan Ellis from the bottom of the lineup to cleanup.
The move paid off, as Ellis took advantage and got Plant on the board in the third inning with a three-run double and leading the way for a 9-0 win.
“It kind of makes me look like a genius,” Braun joked.
After singles from Cooper Dickens and Stephen Chamblee, and Kyle Tucker getting hit by a pitch, Ellis cashed in by driving the ball to left center, and Plant (12-4) never looked back.
“I was not expecting it,” Ellis said. “I was hitting in the 9 hole all year and have been swinging the bat pretty well, so when I came up with the bases loaded I got a fastball and took a hack.”
Junior pitcher Jake Woodford took over from there, as the University of Florida verbal commitment held the Bulls to four hits.
The Panthers added three runs in the fourth on a Matt Vaka homer, also to left center.
Woodford earned the complete-game win, moving to 4-1 on the season with seven strikeouts and only walking one.
“It was nice to get our guy out on the mound and kind of stop some of this,” Braun said of Woodford. “That’s what he’s here for.”
Ellis, who added an RBI in the sixth, admitted the Panthers’ losses in the previous two games might have had a little to do with the nine games Plant has played in the last 14 days.
However, the victory against the Bulls was crucial, as it improved Plant to 6-0 in the Class 8A-District 7 standings.
“We were a little exhausted coming out of the Saladino,” Ellis said. “Kind of a Saladino slump, I guess, but we came back to it tonight.”
Bak had a pair of singles, an RBI and a run for the Panthers.
Bloomingdale’s Doug Sandberg had two singles in the game.