TAMPA — Like he has done after every baseball game he has coached for 50 years, Frank Permuy addressed his team then gathered his things in the dugout and packed them into a long, black bat bag.
For the Gaither coach, it was a familiar routine. But this time — after a 5-1 loss to Sickles in the Class 7A, District 8 semifinal on Wednesday — it was his last.
Permuy, who has coached at Gaither for 30 seasons and in other positions for 20 years before that, decided last year that 2014 would be his last. And with Sickles ousting his Cowboys from the tournament, there would be no playoff games in his team’s future.
“It’s bittersweet because you lose, you know?” Permuy said. “But I really enjoyed this year, because no one was expecting too much. I told the kids today, ‘I’m really proud of you guys. If someone told me we’d win 17 ballgames this year, I’d bet my house against it.’”
Permuy’s last team at Gaither was a young one, a fact that limited the Cowboys against Sickles (17-6) on Wednesday. Underclassmen filled key positions, Permuy said, and the inexperience showed.
Gaither (17-6) got on the board first in the third inning when Tyler Tyson singled, stole second, got to third on a passed ball, and scored on Chris Minor’s RBI single. But that was the only Cowboys run.
Elias Iglesias and Troy Bacon each had an RBI single, but three of Sickles’ five runs were scored on a passed ball, wild pitch or an error — something Permuy said his infielders haven’t committed in 15 games.
“Everybody is going to make mistakes,” Sickles coach Bob Pagano said. “You just can’t do them, at this stage of the game. … We capitalized on them.”
Sickles meets Wiregrass Ranch, a 4-2 winner over Steinbrenner, in a meeting of programs seeking their first district baseball title.
After year’s of coming in second place, Pagano was excited about his team’s chance to finally bring home a crown.
Still, Pagano expressed a twinge of sadness after the game’s final pitch.
“Why me? That’s not something I want to have on my record,” Pagano said about ending Permuy’s final season. “I respect that man to the nth degree.”
7A-7: Brandon, Durant advance to final
DURANT — About the only thing that could slow Brandon starting pitcher Ryan Anderson in the Eagles’ 7A-7 district semifinal against Strawberry Crest was a bout with leg cramps that crept up between the third and fourth innings.
Anderson, who needed to be stretched out and was given fluids before taking the mound in the fourth, surrendered only three hits and struck out six in 62/3 innings to pace Brandon in a 2-0 victory.
“I felt (the cramps) the rest of the game, especially when I was running to first, but that didn’t stop me,” Anderson said.
Anderson retired the Chargers (18-10) in order in the first, third, fourth and fifth innings. In the seventh, holding a two-run lead, the right-hander gave up a leadoff double and hit a batter before getting two outs. Brandon coach Matt Stallbaumer turned to Antonio Velez for the final out, and the reliever struck out Christian Laird looking after giving up a walk and loading the bases.
“Ryan Anderson for us was key,” Stallbaumer said.
Brandon (16-8) scored in each of the first two innings. In the first, leadoff batter Austin Sullivan walked, moved to second on Jordan Feist’s bunt single, stole third and scored when the throw from catcher Tyler Chancey skipped into the outfield.
In the second, Alex Clark reached on an infield single, reached third after a sacrifice bunt and a wild pitch and scored on Sullivan’s infield single.
Brandon faces Durant in Friday’s final after the Cougars dispatched East Bay 5-2.
Durant starting pitcher Ryan Barfield went 51/3 innings without giving up a hit until a walk, a double by Darius Sillart and a RBI groundout by Tyler Blaisdell chased him holding a 5-1 lead.
“It felt great,” Barfield said. “I had most of my stuff working. So I just relaxed, and it was pretty easy to do.”
East Bay (7-16-1) scored a second run on a wild pitch by reliever Luke Heyer but couldn’t overcome a 5-0 deficit. Durant (17-6) scored in each of the first four innings. The Cougars plated a run in the first after an error allowed Corey Hamm to score. Durant made it 2-0 on Garrett Wright’s RBI double.
Tyler Long stroked a run-scoring single in the third, and Wright’s fielder’s choice brought home Justin Nardello after Nardello’s leadoff double to start the fourth. Heyer added a RBI single later in the inning.
6A-9: Jefferson, King to meet in final
Jefferson, which has combined for 23 hits in its last two games, beat Hillsborough 8-4 in Wednesday’s district semifinal, earning a spot in tonight’s championship game against King, which beat Leto 9-2 in the second semifinal.
The Dragons had 13 hits against the Terriers, including three from Trey Robinson and two apiece from Jose Cuellar, Nelson Maldonado, Anthony Perez and Alejandro Martinez. Jonathon Diaz pitched a complete game and earned his fifth win of the season.
King has defeated the Dragons (17-8) twice this season.
First baseman Kobe Barnum led the Lions (20-5) against Leto, hitting a two-run homer in the sixth. Designated hitter John Hernandez also had a triple and a double.
“They’re playing the best baseball they’ve played this year,” King coach Jim Macaluso said. “We’ll have to play our best game in order to even stay on the field with (Jefferson), because they’re playing really well.”
Times correspondent Bryan Burns contributed to this report.