PORT ST. LUCIE — Brooks-DeBartolo performed fabulously in the role of a spoiler in its first trip to the state baseball tournament.
The Phoenix entered the region tournament as a district runnerup with a record three games under .500. It was a team without much history or, for that matter, a homefield. But to beat Orangewood Christian, the nation’s No. 11-ranked team by ESPN Rise, in Friday’s Class 2A state semifinal, the rise-from-the-ashes Phoenix would need a miracle. And they nearly got it.
Held to just one hit over six innings, the free-wheeling Phoenix came close to completing its third postseason comeback. But its season ended with an emotional 5-4 loss. The tying run was thrown out at the plate after a fundamental squeeze bunt play wasn’t executed.
“We worked hard all year for this,” senior centerfielder/pitcher Adam Eggnatz said. “A lot of people doubted us and didn’t think we’d get here. Our record is about .500, and they only lost one game. Coming in we were definitely the underdogs. We’ve been underdogs all season. We gave them a run for it. It just came down to the last inning, the last play, and we just didn’t execute.”
Trailing 5-0 heading into the bottom of the seventh inning, Brooks-DeBartolo rallied for four runs, capped by a one-out, two-run triple by Davyon Dozier that rolled to the fence in the left-centerfield gap against a drawn-in outfield.
“The momentum changed for us,” starting pitcher Javier Reynoso said. “I really thought we had the game at least tied.”
That put the tying run 90 feet away for the Phoenix (14-15). And for a team known for aggressive baserunning — Brooks-DeBartolo stole 130 bases this season — this was no time to play it safe.
So the Phoenix went for a safety squeeze. Dozier sped down the line with a great jump, but Luis Calvo was unable to drop a bunt, and Dozier was tagged out at the plate.
“We felt that was the right play to call at the right time,” coach Donnie Oliver said. “All my guy had to do was put the bunt down and that guy would have been safe. …Everybody’s going to question us on that squeeze play, but that was the right call.”
In the end, the Phoenix could look at four errors, including back-to-back fielding miscues in a two-run top of the seventh, as the reasons it lost.
The left-handed Reynoso did his job in his final high school game, holding Orangewood Christian (33-1) — a team with 84 homers — to just three hits over 6 1/3 innings and striking out six. The Coastal Carolina recruit allowed just one hit after the first inning, complementing his low 90s fastball with a curveball and slider on two-strike counts.
“He was a lot better than the scouting report we got,” Orangewood Christian coach Alan Kunkel said. “He did a really good job of pitching backwards. He threw some pretty good off-speed pitches in hitter’s counts. You have to give him credit. He battled. He’s a competitor.”
For a team with two senior starters — Reynoso and Eggnatz — the future is bright. This was just the program’s third year and first year of postseason eligibility.
“We’ll be back,” Oliver said, fighting tears. “I promise you, we’ll be back.”