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CLEARWATER, FL – A year ago, you couldn't blame the Suncoast Stars for feeling a bit cheated out of a tournament championship at the Grapefruit Classic. They had just completed round-robin play undefeated and were the clear favorites to win a title.
That's when the rain came. And came. And came.
No championship game was played and the Stars were crowned co-champions, leaving them with the hollow, kiss-your-sister feeling. A loss in the Fall Classic finals to the Maine Diamond Dogs didn't do anything to help either.
It took a year to rid themselves of the taste of having to share a championship they believed would have been rightly theirs. Thanks to a dominating pitching performance from Jim Kearschner, a defense that turned four double plays and a four-run eighth inning that finally put the game away, Suncoast is once again enjoying the sweet taste of victory.
"After last year, this is definitely nice,” Suncoast manager Peter Moran said. "We're fortunate to have excellent starting pitching with guys who are really competitive and take it seriously. They throw on their off days and keep themselves in great shape and it shows in games like this.
"Jim has been a pillar for this team. And, like he always does, he had a great game and shut down a good-hitting team. This is what we expect from him every timeout.” Kearschner went the distance, striking out two and allowing just a second-inning run on Doug Elliot's swinging bunt down the third-base line that scored Steve Dercole and
Suns' co-MVP Jim Kearschner had a complete game
After Orlando pulled within a run, the Stars, who finished the tournament 4-0, scored a pair of runs in the bottom of the third for a 4-1 lead. From there, it was just a matter of Kearschner dominating and the Suncoast defense taking care of every ball hit to them. A four-run eighth settled the issue.
"We just ran out of players,” Orlando manager Jose Rosado said. "With the tournament ending on a Monday, we lost three guys to work, but they were still the better team today. Their guy pitched a great game, but both teams hit a lot of balls hard. The difference was their balls found holes and ours didn't.”
Jose Delvalle finished 2-for-3 for Orlando, which finished round-robin play 2-1, then defeated the Clearwater All-Stars 15-9 to advance to the championship game. Dercole and Elliot each finished 1-for-3. Dave Benedict led the way for Suncoast, which finished with 12 hits, going 3-for-4 with a pair of runs scored and an RBI. Benedict and Kearschner were named co-MVP's for the tournament. John Mauk and Mike Noto each went 2-for-4 with a run and an RBI in the finals. Red Eckert was 1-for-
Dave Benedict tore it up at the 2012 Grapefruit Classic