Florida hurtles into final
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Murray • While everyone back home is preparing for a possible hit by Hurricane Issac, Florida has taken the Babe Ruth 14U World Series by storm.

Right-hander Moises Pichardo didn't allow a hit until the fifth inning and Jacksonville, Fla., pounded out 12 hits during an 8-4 semifinal win over Twin Cities, Wash., on Friday night at Ken Price Park.

Florida will play Branchburg (N.J.) in the championship game on Saturday at 1 p.m.

While Pichardo held Twin Cities in check, Florida burst to a 7-0 lead after four innings and cruised to a closer-than-it-looks victory.

Centerfielder Mathew Anthony went 4-for-4 and scored three times while first baseman Mitch Campion went 3-for-3 with three runs batted to spark Jacksonville.

"This is probably not the most talented group of kids we've ever had," said Florida manager Damon Olinto. "But they are probably the best team I've ever coached. They've really come together and jelled together. They always seem to pick each other up well."

Exhibit A?

Although Pichardo seemed to tire in the final innings, Florida turned three double plays behind him to prevent a Washington rally and keep Jacksonville alive in its quest for a national championship.

"We had three goals coming out here," Olinto said. "The first was to create a positive experience for each kid. The second was to throw strikes and give the other team only three outs per inning. If we did that, we felt like we had a chance for our third goal — to win it."

Asked about Pichardo's complete-game performance, Olinto smiled and said, "He's the youngest kid on the team. He could be playing on the 13-year-old team. But he knows how to pitch. He changes speeds. He hits locations and he throws a sinker and gets a lot of ground balls."

After Pichardo retired Twin Cities in order in the top of the first, Jacksonville scored twice to quickly take command of the game.

Anthony singled and stole second. Sean Olinto followed with another single, moving Anthony to third.

Anthony scored on Keenan Bell's infield out, and Sean Olinto made it 2-0 on Campion's sacrifice fly to deep right.

Florida never looked back, setting up the title game against Branchburg, which beat Westchester in the late semifinal, 9-8.

luhm@sltrib.com —

Babe Ruth 14U World Series

Friday's semifinals

• Jacksonville (Fla.) 8, Twin Cities (Wash.) 4

• Branchburg (N.J.) 9, Westchester (Calif.) 8