District baseball: Northside Christian 4, Sarasota Out-of-Door 3
LARGO – Northside Christian coach Raul Hernandez saw something during preseason intersquad scrimmages that bothered him.
“I noticed that whenever there were inside pitches, our batters were jumping out of the way,” Hernandez said. “We preached to them to stay in there, take the hit and go to first base for the good of the team.”
The payoff came Friday night in the Class 3A, District 5 championship game at Indian Rocks Christian where three hit batters earned the youthful Mustangs an improbable 4-3 walkoff victory over Sarasota Out-of-Door Academy.
With leadoff batter Ty McGeehan (error and sacrifice bunt) at second base in the bottom of the seventh inning, sophomore Brian Fuller was plunked for the second time in the game. Eighth-grader Pierce Chambers walked to load the bases, then sophomore sub Luke Vari was hit by an inside curveball to score McGeehan. The second pitch to sophomore leadoff hitter Corey Yawn found his arm, plating Fuller with the winner.
“It's the will to win,” said Fuller, who also added a double to Friday's stat line. “If we put ourselves on base, we give our team a better chance to win.”
A hot offensive start, highlighted by a two-run homer from Northside's Jonathan Alonso, was chilled by a rain delay followed by a power failure.
One hour later, the pitchers, especially Mustang freshman Colton Olasin, went a long way to changing momentum.
Seeing his first mound duty of the season, Olasin came in with the bases loaded in the third inning and shut ODA (21-6) down. He retired seven of the eight batters he faced including an epic, 11-pitch fourth-inning battle with Austen Brinling that ended with a strikeout.
“It was just such a long at-bat; I was trying my hardest to finish him,” the freshman said. “I knew my team needed me and I knew I had to do my job.”
Pitching for the second straight night, Yawn worked two perfect innings, striking out four for the win.
"With travel ball, Perfect Game ... these are 15- and 16-year-old kids that are young but have game experience," Hernandez said of his squad's resolve. "They're battle-tested."
And those tests, and the lessons learned, have earned Northside (22-5) a region semifinal home game on Thursday.