FORT MYERS — With the wind blowing, Bloomingdale coach Kris Wilken motioned for rightfielder Conrado Skepple to inch more toward centerfield. So when Lake Worth Park Vista’s Matthew Mika hit what should have been an easily caught flyball to rightfield in the eighth inning of Friday’s Class 8A state semifinal, the wind caused Skepple to track it wrong, and he slipped while running to make the out.
“I was just hoping they’d pick me up. I made a mistake,” Skepple said of the double he gave up. “I just trusted my teammates, and they pulled through for me.”
For the third time in the game, Mika made it to third base, but Bloomingdale’s defense got two quick outs to get out of the jam.
Then Skepple returned the favor.
In the bottom of the frame, the junior rightfielder hit a walk-off single to leftfield to score the only run of the game and deliver the 1-0 win to Bloomingdale. The Bulls face Homestead South Dade (22-7) on Saturday at 4 p.m. for the state championship.
“That play right there is the epitome of what we are right now in the last five games,” Wilken said. “We make a mistake …but we find a way to make a big pitch, we find a way to make a big play and kind of control the damage.”
Both coaches knew runs would be hard to come by. Park Vista starting pitcher Austin Smith, a Florida Atlantic commit, came in with a 0.30 ERA and an unblemished 12-0 record. Logan Crouse, a Florida State commit and the Bulls’ saving grace all year, took the mound for Bloomingdale.
In contrast to the Bulls (21-9), Park Vista — which came in with three players hitting .400 or greater — wasn’t a team that had a lot of trouble making things happen at the plate.
Mika, who went 3-for-4, began the game with a leadoff single. But despite having five runners in scoring position throughout the day, the Cobras (27-4) couldn’t manage to push any runs across.
The innings went by quickly, and Park Vista swung at first-pitch strikes all day long.
“It definitely got my momentum going,” said Crouse, who gave up just five hits, walked one and struck out four. “I like working fast like that. You just stay in rhythm.”
Smith was efficient, too, giving up seven hits and striking out three through eight innings. The only base on balls he allowed, though, was costly.
In the bottom of the eighth inning, pinch hitter Daylon Owens drew a one-out walk. Moments later, it was Skepple’s turn at the plate. The frustrated rightfielder was 0-for-3 on the day.
But after driving home the winning run, those at-bats — or his accident in the outfield — didn’t matter a bit to a smiling Skepple.
The Bulls will be looking for their first state title Saturday, a surprising season finale for a team that was 8-7 less than two months ago.
“I would say it was crazy,” Skepple said of the postseason run, “but I didn’t think it was impossible to be here.”