ST. PETERSBURG — Northside Christian and Bradenton St. Stephen's split their regular-season series. In Thursday night's rubber match, the Falcons scored five runs in the eighth inning and staved off a furious Mustangs comeback to claim the Class 2A, District 11 championship 8-6.
"You try to take the positives from a game like this," Mustangs coach Raul Hernandez said. "You hope six runs are enough to win a game like this, but not tonight."
Northside starter Robbie Williams and his counterpart, St. Stephen's Michael Roberts, shut down batters through three innings, but both teams scored in the fourth.
Josh Breitwieser homered in the top of the inning to give St. Stephen's a 1-0 lead. The Mustangs scored two of their own in the bottom of the inning. Alex McGathey singled and reached third after Kyle Turner's double. McGathey scored on a squeeze bunt by David Dresselhaus and Hunter Habib followed with a single to score Turner.
St. Stephen's reclaimed the lead with a two-run sixth. Donnie Roberts singled and Nick Bisplinghoff reached on an error. Brooks Norton singled home Roberts and James Allen doubled home Bisplinghoff.
The score stayed at 3-2 until the Mustangs' final at-bat in the seventh. David Edwards walked, stole second and scored on a single by McGathey to tie the game at 3 and send it into extra innings.
In the eighth the Falcons exploded for five runs to go up 8-5 and seemingly put the game out of reach. The big hit was a two-run double by Conor McCarthy.
The Mustangs never gave in as Habib led off with a walk and scored on a Jeffrey Heinicka double. Heinicka and Edwards scored to pull Northside within two before the Falcons were able to shut the door and claim the championship.
"We were down two or three times and didn't fall apart," Hernandez said. "Our kids kept battling."
The Mustangs were led by Turner, who hit two doubles and scored a run. Habib and McGathey each had two singles, scored a run and drove in a run.