SEFFNER — Armwood, which had never advanced to the state tournament before last season, is headed back thanks to Friday's 4-3 Class 5A region final win over Lake Wales.
The Hawks, state semifinalists last year, extended their season-high win streak to seven. But they nearly blew a 4-0 lead before reliever Tyler Alexander saved the game for starter Zack Powers (7-1).
Alexander allowed two runs to score on a sacrifice fly and subsequent error by Powers, who moved to shortstop, in the bottom of the sixth inning. Alexander then got the final four outs to clinch it for the Hawks (19-9).
"We made some tough plays in tough situations and I think it helped being there before," Armwood coach Mike Wrenn said. "Hopefully, we'll go down to Port St. Lucie and change it up this year."
Armwood got on the scoreboard first with a run in the bottom of the third. Jordan Fameree led of with a single and scored on Powers' two-out single, a high hopper that eluded Lake Wales second baseman Matt Warren.
"He was throwing a great game," Powers said of Highlanders starter Justin Shafer. "He was coming first-pitch fastball with me and I just got on it."
The Hawks broke open a close game with three runs, two of which were earned, in the fifth for a 4-0 lead. Fameree singled and Josh Spano reached on an infield error. Alexander, Powers and Tanner Emmons followed with run-scoring singles.
Lake Wales (26-5) finally got its offense untracked in the top of the sixth inning, making it a one-run game by scoring three times. Joseph Jusino singled to drive in one run and Zack Calvin, who doubled, scored on Warren's sacrifice fly. Jusino raced home on an errant relay throw by Powers.
"We stayed strong and made a couple of big plays," Wrenn said. "Pitching and defense is going to win you games and that's what it did today."