PORT ST. LUCIE — As Tampa Catholic stepped off its bus at Digital Domain Field, site of the Class 3A state semifinal Wednesday, coach Pat Russo offered a prediction. He told his Crusaders he believed they would win 4-3.
Give the first-year coach credit. His team could have — and probably should have — prevailed by that score.
Instead, Tampa Catholic left at least three runs on the field — specifically the basepaths — in falling 3-1 to Jacksonville Bolles.
"We were right where we wanted to be," Russo said. "We're on the downside, but we're just as good as Jacksonville Bolles."
Three errors didn't help Tampa Catholic's cause against MaxPreps' No. 8 team in the nation. But sophomore Derek Martin kept the Crusaders in the game, holding Bolles to one earned run over six innings.
Russo could only ponder the fateful third.
With the score 1-1, the Crusaders opened it with singles by Billy Endress and Nick Alfonso.
But Endress was picked off at second, a miscue that was even more stinging when Shane Rowland hit a ball in the right-centerfield gap that scored Alfonso.
Rowland slid into third with a triple. When the cutoff throw went awry, he broke for home but was called out on a close play.
"I thought I was past him by the time he tried to tag me," Rowland said. "Some calls don't go your way. Obviously, some calls didn't go our way all day."
"It didn't deflate us," Russo said. "But when you get this hype and you read the stuff about the team you're going to play and you have the opportunity to go up on them 3-1, I think it was the turning point.
"We didn't quit, but if that inning ends 3-1, it's a whole different ball game. Our demeanor is a little different."
Down 2-1, Tampa Catholic had a chance to tie it in the sixth when Matt Darrigo opened with a triple. But he was thrown out at home on Rowland's flyout to left.
All in all, the Crusaders had its opportunities against Bolles ace Mark Lumpa, a Duke signee who is 27-0 during his high school career.
Of Tampa Catholic's eight baserunners, five were thrown out on the basepaths.
"They always say you can win games on the basepaths," Lumpa said; "but not necessarily running bases yourself, but making sure the other team doesn't take extra bases. We did that today."