DUNEDIN — By the seventh inning, Clearwater Central Catholic had stayed close enough that the outcome had the scent of history in the making.
The Marauders had a school-record-tying 16 straight victories and were on the verge of breaking the record in Wednesday’s semifinals of the Dunedin Spring Invitational.
But the record was halted against East Lake, Clearwater Central Catholic’s biggest nemesis recently. The Eagles survived to win 2-1 and advance to Friday’s championship game.
It was the third straight season East Lake has beaten the Marauders. But none have ended quite like this.
Clearwater Central Catholic had bases loaded and one out in the seventh inning. But the game ended on a bizarre double play. East Lake catcher Grant Hodges tagged home on a throw for the first out. The final out came when a Marauder runner interfered with a throw to first.
“Never had a game end quite like that,” East Lake coach Dan Genna said.
“I’ve had some strange endings that have gone in our favor,” Clearwater Central Catholic coach Todd Vaughan said. “But not that went against us quite like this.”
The game was tight throughout, which was expected considering the teams entered with a combined record of 30-2.
The Eagles (15-1) scored both of their runs in the fourth inning. Keegan Maronpot singled, stole second and came home on a single by Tyler Neuhaus. After reaching second on an error and stealing third, Neuhaus scored on a groundout by Tyler Gardner.
In the sixth inning, the Marauders broke through as David Paul scored off a bases-loaded groundout to cut it to 2-1.
East Lake starter Cameron Churchill kept Clearwater Central Catholic off balance enough to improve to 4-0. Churchill, who was nursing a sore back, was making his first start in nearly two weeks. He pitched a complete game, allowing five hits and striking out six.
“I felt pretty strong out there,” Churchill said. “There was some soreness, but once I got past the fourth inning I started to get going.”
The Eagles will face Lynn Haven Mosley in the title game. Mosley beat Dunedin 12-6 in the other semifinal. It was the third straight game the Dolphins have scored at least 10 runs in the tournament.
Mosley also has recorded 15 extra-base hits and has eight triples, including three Wednesday. That helped the Dolphins jump out to a 10-0 lead by the fourth inning.
Dunedin made a furious rally, scoring five runs in the fourth inning. The big hit was a three-run triple by Aaron Chesson. But the comeback fell short as the Falcons scored just one more run the rest of the way.