ST. PETERSBURG — First came the hit, a hard chopper down the third-base line by Jacob McFadden.
Then came the run.
In a frantic fifth inning, St. Petersburg Catholic was locked in a tie game with Calvary Christian. The Barons were down to two outs and trying to go ahead for the first time. So McFadden sprinted toward first in hopes of beating the throw. In a mad dash, McFadden slid head first, extending his arm in time to reach safely. Dakota Sarafin, who doubled, scored to give SPC the lead 3-2.
The Barons added two more runs in the sixth inning to win 5-2 in the Class 3A region semifinals. SPC (19-9-1) will host Friday’s region final.
“It was a bang-bang play and Jacob did everything he could to get there on time,” Barons coach John Vigue said. “It was a big play for us. But really all the boys are playing hard right now. They’ve all just got hot at the right time.”
In the top of the fifth, the Warriors came to life offensively as Heath Heatherley, David Ell and Zach Wolfe each singled. One batter later, Dakota Hofmann singled to bring in Heatherley and Ell to give Calvary a 2-0 lead.
SPC responded in the bottom half of the inning with Ryan Mueller reaching on an error and Tito Santos reaching on a walk. Sarafin then doubled to score two runs to tie. That set up McFadden’s scramble to first.
Ahead 3-2, the Barons scored two runs in the sixth inning. The big hit came from Sarafin, who singled to bring in Joey Saunders for the final run.
“We weren’t too worried when we were down in the game,” said Sarafin, who went 4-for-4 and drove in three runs. “We just had to keep the energy going and keep scoring runs.”
Jimmy Lynch did the rest. The SPC reliever pitched the final two innings, retiring six of seven batters, including four strikeouts. Lynch had rotator cuff surgery on his right shoulder last season and was making just his fifth appearance on the mound this season.
“Having Lynch healthy and throwing the way he did was huge for us,” Vigue said. “The team is starting to come together.”
6A: Game slips away for Tarpon
WINTER HAVEN — One of the best seasons in Tarpon Springs baseball history came to a disappointing end Tuesday night. With the score tied at 1 in the bottom of the seventh, a runner on second and two out, Winter Haven leadoff hitter Tyler Pike hit a ground ball to second baseman Hunter Bonner.
The ball skipped off Bonner’s glove and rolled right, allowing Chase Coon to score for a 2-1 final. As soon as Bonner realized he had no play at home, he slumped to the clay at second base. His teammates ran out to console him.
“That kid has made one error all season,” Tarpon Springs coach Dickie Hart said. “It’s a shame it had to end this way. It was a great game with some great plays.”
It was a pitcher’s duel between Pike and Tarpon Springs right-hander Michael Dunnigan. Each pitcher held his opponents hitless through three innings, and the first runs weren’t scored until the sixth.
In the top of the sixth, Bonner led off with a single and moved to second on a sacrifice by Tommy Grill. After a passed ball moved Bonner to third, Caleb Koulianos singled over a drawn in infield to score Bonner.
On the next pitch, Anthony Bariso laced a double to left centerfield. Koulianos was waved home, but the relay throw from shortstop Mitch Piatnik got him at the plate.
“I’m not sure how the shortstop makes that play,” Hart said. “I would have sent him 500 times out of 500.”
In the bottom of the sixth, on Dunnigan’s first pitch of the inning, Luke Borders hit a towering home run to rightfield that tied the game. Levi Borders singled next, but Dunnigan was able to wiggle out of the inning thanks to a throw out at third base and an inning-ending ground out to Bonner.
Tarpon Springs (24-5) got a runner to second with two out in the top of the seventh but could not score.
In the bottom of the inning Coon walked with one out and was sacrificed to second by Joe Lopez. Then Pike hit his grounder to second.
“I just told them that I was proud of them,” Hart said. “Only one team in each class doesn’t feel this way. I feel bad for the seniors.
“This is a great group. I wouldn’t trade this group for any in the country.”
2A: Crusaders get even when it counts
SARASOTA — Canterbury pulled even in its season series with Sarasota Christian and crept ever closer to the state final four Tuesday night.
Jake Holsinger pitched a four-hitter and the Crusaders scratched together enough offense for a 5-1 victory at Sarasota Christian in the Class 2A region semifinals.
The Blazers and Crusaders split four games this season.
The Crusaders took advantage of two wild pitches and two walks to score twice in the fourth inning, giving Canterbury enough runs to move on.
“We got a great effort from Jake,” Canterbury coach Dave Smith said. “He really kept them off balance with his fastball, changeup and curveball. We missed some chances to score early, but we got some big hits later on. We got some breaks and scored some early. Instead of being ahead 2-0 after four, it could’ve easily been 0-0.”
Harrison Hall and John Tunstall each had two hits and an RBI for Canterbury (14-6).
“We’ve got a great group of athletes here, and they’re playing confidently now,” Smith said. “We still have some work to do, but we’re very excited. Canterbury’s only been to the region final once, and we’ve never been to the state finals.”
In the fourth with the bases loaded, Holsinger struck out yet reached on a wild-pitch third strike to score Brent O’Neal. With the bases loaded again, Sarasota Christian pitcher Chad Miller walked DaSean Thomas to bring in Jeremy Rivera for the second run.
Holsinger worked out of a jam in the fifth. After walking the first two batters, Canterbury then retired the next three.
The Blazers wound up with their only run in their last at-bat with two out.
Holsinger, Hall and Tunstall later added RBI singles.
7A: Warhawks can’t contain Cowboys’ offense
TAMPA — Gaither batted around two of Pinellas County’s best pitchers Tuesday, scoring six runs on nine hits, while getting solid pitching and defense that only yielded one run and two hits — all from the same Warhawk batter — to prevail 6-1 in a Class 7A region semifinal.
“They came up in critical spots and hit it,” Seminole coach Jeff Pincus said. “They just out-played us.”
The Cowboys did indeed get hits when it mattered but not from the places one might expect. Sure, junior Oscar Mercado and senior Eddie Pastrana combined for a couple runs but the bottom third of the lineup, seniors Chris Valdes-Torres, Cody Robinson and Jacob Gowen, combined for three hits and four of the Cowboys’ RBIs.
Gowen got the critical hit in the fourth inning when he came up with bases loaded and one out. His single to centerfield cracked the game open, making it 5-0. Seminole senior Jordan Doyle was edgy after giving up a run in the second and third innings. A base hit and a walk started off the fourth inning and sent the Seminole coaches to the mound.
“(Doyle) was having trouble with the strike zone and his pitch count was getting up there,” Pincus said.
Doyle hit the next batter, then Gowen got his big hit. The Cowboys got one more in that inning and got to junior pitcher Alex McGathey, who walked four and gave up another run in his two innings of work.
Valdes-Torres made a diving catch in rightfield to extinguish a hit in the fifth. Pastrana went over the fence chasing a foul ball in the second inning. The Cowboys only made one fielding error and got a great effort from senior right-hander Evan Gainey, who went seven innings, fanning seven and walking five.
“We took a lot of batting practice, we worked a lot of situations, two-strike counts just trying to make contact and we did that tonight,” Cowboys coach Frank Permuy said. “I told them, ‘They’re only that good on paper.’ ”
Junior Scott Withrow went 2-for-4 with a smash over the centerfield wall in the sixth inning for Seminole’s lone run.
Staff writer Rodney Page and correspondents Thomas P. Corwin and Andy Warrener contributed to this report.