BRANDON — The team that was supposed to be a year away couldn't be denied, even throughout an offensive barrage that's rarely seen.
The last time Brandon won a region championship, most of the Eagles' seven starting sophomores were just 4 years old. In Friday's Class 5A region final against Winter Haven, the Eagles earned their first trip to states in 13 years in a two-game series that included 13 homers, beating the Blue Devils 9-8 and 10-6.
"It's just a great feeling because a lot of people doubted us," said Brandon first baseman Roderick Shoulders, who was 6-for-9 with six RBIs in the two games. "Everyone thought we wouldn't do this until next year."
The victories improved their winning streak to 16 games.
The Eagles (25-6) did it in improbable fashion, after losing the lead in Game 1 during a five-run Winter Haven sixth inning.
After leading 6-0, the Eagles trailed 8-7 heading into the bottom of the sixth until catcher Michael Smith hit his second home run of the game — one of five for Brandon in the opener.
Then Brandon coach Matt Stallbaumer went to senior Dan Trnka to stop the surging Blue Devils. Trnka stranded two in the seventh, and the Eagles took the game in the bottom half of the inning when an errant throw from shortstop sailed over the first baseman's head, scoring Chris Bradford from second.
"(Trnka) was unbelievable," Smith said. "Everyone said that we'd have to outscore teams, but it's our pitching that's been unbelievable late in games."
That win gave Brandon the momentum going into Game 2.
Brandon capitalized, hitting three more homers — including a second on the night from centerfielder James Ramsay — and getting a complete-game win from junior Cory Schools.
"This team has really come together this season," Schools said. "I think everyone's become men this year. We know how to succeed."
Smith, taking it in, shook his head. "The way we're playing now — we can't be beat."