CLEARWATER — Northeast has had a knack for winning close games all season. That trend continued Friday night in the Class 7A, District 9 final against East Lake.
The Vikings scored three runs in the first inning and held on for dear life in the seventh to defeat the Eagles 3-2. Northeast (22-4) has won 16 straight and will host Braden River in Wednesday’s regional quarterfinals. East Lake (19-8) has the daunting task of playing at Sarasota.
“That’s a typical Northeast game right there,” Vikings coach Rob Stanifer said. “We jumped out to a lead and then (starter) Josh (Hale) just pitched great again. We made it interesting in the end, but that’s how it’s been going.”
Northeast jumped on East Lake starter Ryan Wall in the first inning. Angelo Terrasi led off with a double and Chris Clark followed with a squib single that spun from foul territory to fair down the first base line.
Bret Maxwell then doubled both runners home to make it 2-0. One out later, Will Condon singled, stole second and went to third on a passed ball. Jason Mugavero flew out to leftfield, scoring Maxwell.
Hale rolled through the first three innings, but the Eagles got going in the fourth. Cameron Churchill led off with a single. Ian Lisle then homered to right center to make it 3-2. Hale struck out the next three batters to get out of the inning.
East Lake’s best chance to tie or take the lead came in the seventh inning. Jesse Moeller came on in relief and struck out Andrew Prozzillo to start the inning. Brad Deppermann hit a fly ball to second base, but it was dropped by Mugavero.
Sawyer Wirth struck out for the second out, but Keegan Maronpot singled to put two on with two out. After a long battle, Moeller got Nick DeSantis to strike out on a curveball in the dirt to end the game.
“They were one pitch better than us,” East Lake coach Dan Genna said. “If I had any mulligans I wish I could use one in the first inning. But that’s a good team. They were the No. 1 (district) seed for a reason.”
Northeast snapped East Lake’s run of three straight district championships. And it was done in typical Vikings style: Score early and play defense.
“We put it all together in the first inning,” Maxwell said. “We had guys on base just about every other inning but we couldn’t get them in. But we did all the little things that we had to do to win.”