By Gary Brown, Sun Correspondent
PUNTA GORDA — Zane Saunders took good advantage of his first pitching start of the season for the Charlotte baseball team Thursday night.
The junior tossed six innings, allowed just four hits and struck out seven as the Tarpons topped Dublin (Ohio) Coffman 8-1. He also walked just two batters before Kyle Machado relieved him for the final inning.
Saunders only allowed one fly ball out. The rest were on ground outs or strikeouts.
“Zane hadn’t thrown many pitches so far this season,” Charlotte coach Lavell Cudjo said. “But he said he was ready and did a great job. He threw a lot of strikes and was getting his breaking ball over consistently.”
The visitors scored their only run in the top of the first, but Saunders shut them down the rest of the way. The Tarpons then unleashed their offense, tying the score in the bottom of the third inning when Shane Lemaster tripled to bring in Garrett Dunson.
Charlotte (9-4) then broke the game open in the fourth inning. Justin Hinchey belted a single to bring in two runs. Robert Ottinger, Machado and Lavell Cudjo each singled to load the bases. Clayton Toth layed down a sacrifice bunt to score one run. Hinchey then belted the single that gave the Tarpons a 4-1 lead after four innings.
The Tarpons scored four runs in the fifth to break the game open. The big blow was a two-run home run by sophomore Kevin Conway which scored Lemaster. Machado and Hinchey also had singles in the inning.
Charlotte also was aided by a walk and an infield error. The Tarpons finished with 11 hits as Hinchey collected three hits and two RBI.
“At first, when we were we batting we kind of had some problems with the breaking ball,” coach Cudjo said. “But we then decided to go for contact to the ball and it worked out fine.”
Coffman (2-1), the oldest of three high schools in Dublin, a town near Columbus, was playing its third game on its Florida tour to start the season. They defeated North Port 7-6 Monday and Lemon Bay 14-8 Wednesday night. They’ll open their state season Monday against rival Hillard Davidson.
“We got off kind of late last night,” Shamrocks coach Tim Saunders said. “I wanted to get a chance to look at some of our players tonight. Some of our regular players had kind of an off night tonight.”
The Tarpons visit North Port at 7 p.m. Tuesday in a Class 7A-11 contest.
CHARLOTTE 8, DUBLIN COFFMAN 1
Dublin Coffman 100 000 0 — 1 4 1
Charlotte 001 430 — 8 11 0
WP: Zane Saunders; LP: Cal Haefke. Leading hitters: (C) Justin Hinchey 3-3, 2 RBI; Kevin Conway 1-2, HR, 2 RBI; Shane Lemaster 1-2, 3B, RBI. Records: Dublin Coffman 2-1, Charlotte 9-4.