SEMINOLE — After every playoff victory at home, the Osceola baseball team has sung bits and pieces of Sweet Caroline during their post-game huddle in the outfield.
After knocking off Manatee 3-1 Tuesday in Class 5A region quarterfinal action, the Warriors are closing in on learning the whole song.
"We've come a long way since the beginning of the season when everyone was doubting us," said winning pitcher Taylor Layner. "We hit the ball tonight when we needed to. We got the victory and we're headed on."
Manatee entered with only a 13-15 record but Osceola coach Kevin Mullins said his kids had to be reminded not to overlook the Hurricanes because he believed any team in regionals has to be respected.
"They deserved to be here," he said. "They got hot at the right time of the season. Throw the record out the door."
The Warriors (20-6) only had three hits, but had 12 baserunners. In the second inning, two singles, two walks and a hit batter led to two runs. In the fifth Manatee's defense committed three errors leading to another run.
Layner tossed a four-hitter with 10 strikeouts to spark the defense, but Mullins gave him a B-minus for the effort.
"I'm a little bit tough on Taylor," Mullins said. "It wasn't his game, but when you give him the ball you really feel good you're going to get to the next round."
Layner was hard on himself, too.
"I didn't have my stuff," he said. "I shouldn't have walked three people. I threw too many pitches and I got the count 3-2 too much. The middle innings were rough, but toward the end I started settling down."
TJ Glessner had a pair of singles for the Warriors. Scott Schlapinski had the other hit. Tyler Rocklein tripled for Manatee and Bryan Voelkl doubled.
As for singing Sweet Caroline, Layner commented, "Every time we win it usually plays after the game. We've got it down."