Sun. May 20, 2012 |
PORT ST. LUCIE — It was a remarkable run for Brandon, a team with no college commits or transfers that won 10 in a row to advance to the Class 7A state championship game.
Of course the Eagles would have preferred to walk away with the first baseball title in the school’s 98-year history instead of a 4-2 loss to Venice, but even in the immediate aftermath, coach Matt Stallbaumer marveled at what his team had achieved.
“One unbelievable ride,” Stallbaumer said. “They’re probably not going to talk about it tonight, but we will all hang this medal in our house and show our kids one day.”
Brandon (20-9) jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the third inning when Venice shortstop Dalton Guthrie dropped a ball at second, scoring Chris Toney. For the second straight day, though, Brandon’s defense committed three errors that led to unearned runs, three in the case of Sunday’s championship game.
“Instinct takes over, and you just go,” Stallbaumer said of the defensive miscues. “After the fact, you hesitate on those situations or you’re not ready for it, it kind of jumps up and bites you.”
With the score tied at 1-all, two walks issued by Eagles starting pitcher Eric Hinostroza, with a sacrifice bunt and infield single — one of four in the game for Venice — sandwiched in between, loaded the bases for the Indians with one out in the top of the fourth. Centerfielder Rex Ingerick drove in one run with another infield single. Two batters later with the bases still loaded and two outs, Brandon third baseman Tyler Raymond bobbled a grounder before throwing it over the head of first baseman Alex Gittens as Venice scored two runs to take a 4-1 lead.
Raymond added an RBI single in the fifth against Venice’s starting pitcher, sophomore Brandon Elmy, who made just his fourth start of the year. That single, one of 18 that Brandon collected in the state tournament (along with zero extra-base hits) chased Elmy from the game. But when reliever Tyson Albert bounced his first two pitches into the plate, Venice coach Craig Faulkner waited just one more pitch to bring in Cooper Hammond as Brandon had runners on second and third with one out.
Hammond, with his underhand, submarine delivery, had thrown fewer than 60 pitching in 5.2 innings of relief work Saturday but showed no signs of fatigue, as he struck out four of the nine batters he faced.
“Every pitcher we had seen threw up top,” Hinostroza said of the traditional overhanded delivery. “We tried to tell our guys to wait back and hit it the other way, but we still got caught up in that little slider that just floated.”
Toney, who threw a 77-pitch complete game in Saturday’s 7-4 semifinal win, threw 35 pitches in two scoreless innings of relief for the Eagles, who just couldn’t wait on Hammond’s pitches that came into home plate at around 78 mph.
“I don’t know the day before the state final game that’s something you can prep for,” Stallbaumer said of Hammond. “That kid is unique.”
Photo of Eric Hinostroza courtesy of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune.