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Apopka Advances To District Final By Beating Lake Brantley

Cam Stewart prepares to deliver home.

The Apopka Blue Darters and Lake Brantley Patriots have seen a lot of each other this year. After splitting two games in the regular season, both teams were poised on Tuesday night to win this final showdown and advance to the district final. After a hard-fought game, Apopka came out on top by a score of 6-1.

Both teams didn’t pull any punches. Mike Ruff got the start for the Patriots, and Cam Stewart got the start for the Blue Darters.

The last time Apopka faced Mike Ruff they ran into a wall, and Apopka Manager Eric Lassiter knew his team would have to make some adjustments to beat him.

“When we faced Ruff the first time he really shut the door on us,” said Lassiter. “We were taking pitches we should have hit. So we didn’t want to be taking pitches early in the count to get into breaking-ball counts because he has a devastating breaking ball.”

Both starting pitchers looked sharp, but it didn’t take long for Lake Brantley to score their first run of the game. In the top of the second inning, The Patriots’ Paxton Rigby and Luis Olivier both singled to crowd the base paths. Two batters later, Alex Wells drove in Lake Brantley’s only run of the game.

“We knew we’d have to pitch well and keep their guys off the basepaths,” Lassiter said. “They have a lot of college-level speed, so that was kind of our key to get that first out to keep them off the base paths.”

Cam Stewart shut down any more runs from scoring in that inning, and ended up shutting out Lake Brantley for the rest of the game.

Lake Brantley's Mike Ruff looks for his sign.

When asked about what made him so effective this year, Cam responded humbly.

“It’s not really me, it’s the defense behind me, the catcher behind the plate, and the offense producing when they need to,” Stewart said.

Speaking of offense, the Apopka bats were more than effective, scoring runs over three straight innings in the heart of the game. Jarret Backus drove in the first Apopka run of the game with a double, and Brandon Ussrey drove in another run off a sac fly a few batters later.

One of the other offensive standouts was Julian Nunez, who went 2-for-3 in the game. The Blue Darters really brought it together in a three-run fourth inning that put the game out of reach for Lake Brantley.

Now the Blue Darters get to face the winner of Olympia and West Orange, who are both solid powerhouses in the Orlando area.

“Our goals are trying to win a district title right now against some really good teams,” Lassiter said. “West Orange and Olympia are both really good teams. It’s the most exciting time of the year for a reason. The best go up against the best, and it makes for some thrilling baseball just in time for summer.”

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