Former Sailor Nick Winklemeyer and ex-Indian Rylee Buckmaster lead the way hitting
Nick Winklemeyer may have started his celebration early, but it was just the beginning of a bigger hullabaloo for the Bradenton Juice baseball team.
Winklemeyer’s two-run home run in the top of the seventh inning broke a 2-all tie and lifted the Juice to a 4-2 victory over the Bradenton Mafia in the championship game of the Florida Gulf Coast League on a blistering hot Wednesday at Sarasota Babe Ruth League Field.
A former Sarasota High standout, the left-handed hitting Winklemeyer hit a pitch long but foul down the right-field line.
“It was the exact same pitch,” he said. “He threw me a fastball inside. I fought it off. I’ve got that down. And then he came back with the exact same pitch and I straightened it out.”
Two pitches later, Winklemeyer hit one over the right-field fence that nearly was caught.
“I saw it going and I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, I don’t know if he’s got that or not.’ ” WInklemeyer said. “I saw the trajectory and said, ‘I think it’s gone.’ But I was going to sprint regardless.”
It was the culmination of a 26-game summer season for the Juice (19-7).
The Bradenton Juice celebrate winning the Florida Gulf Coast League championship with a 4-2 win over the Bradenton Mafia @BradentonJuice @htpreps pic.twitter.com/fDiCjnpUP8
— Dennis Maffezzoli (@maffsports) July 29, 2020
Winklemeyer had his season at State College of Florida cut short after 27 games on March 11 because of the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic. A sophomore middle infielder, Winklemeyer got into four of the games, going 4-for-15 (.267).
The FGCL, a summer collegiate baseball league, provided Winklemeyer an opportunity to play some games before heading to the University of Tampa.
“I wanted to get better. I wanted to work on some things, so I can come back in the spring and do well,” he said. “I did for sure. I got some at-bats, played some short and second and got to just work on some things you can’t really work on. I definitely got what I wanted out of this for sure.”
Rylee Buckmaster also got to experience different parts of the diamond defensively during his time in the FGCL.
The former Venice High standout played third base, the outfield and was at first base Wednesday.
“Over the summer, I just wanted to get reps,” Buckmaster said. “I got a lot of reps this summer and found some new positions. I moved around the field.”
The 6-foot-5, 230-pound left-handed hitter appeared in three of Valdosta State University’s 19 games without a hit in six at-bats before the season was shut down.
“With our season being canceled, the opportunity to play … I couldn’t turn it down,” he said. “I got my swing back to where it used to be before I had to take some time off.”
Buckmaster, who will head to Georgia on Aug. 17, delivered the first big hit for the Juice, a two-run double in the second inning.
The Mafia (19-7) made it interesting during the final two innings.
Trailing by two, the Mafia placed the tying run on base in both the eighth and ninth innings.
Right-hander Cole Beavin, who pitched for State College of Florida before moving on to East Carolina University, worked out of both jams to set off a Juice celebration in the infield.