PORT ST. LUCIE — With four of the five Hillsborough County baseball teams seeking state gold having been eliminated before Armwood's Class 5A state semifinal game Monday night, the county's hopes of a state title rested on the Hawks.
But the Hawks have strived under pressure this postseason after being a No. 4 district seed that was just one game over .500 in mid-March.
Now Armwood is one win from its first state title after a 3-1 win over Fort Lauderdale St. Thomas Aquinas at Digital Domain Park. They are scheduled to face Pace in tonight's 5A championship game at 7.
"We were all over it," Armwood first baseman Sean Cramer said of the possibility of winning the county's only title. "We were watching all the games. I'm not going to say we wanted it that way, but we like the pressure. I think we've handle it pretty well lately."
Hawks ace Zack Powers threw a four-hitter, striking out seven and retiring 10 of the final 11 hitters he faced.
"He's a crazy kid who loves pressure," Armwood coach Mike Wrenn said. "He wants the bat in his hand in the seventh inning when you're down two runs. He wants the ball when you're up one run. He likes that kind of atmosphere. He picked up some steam at the end of the game and he started feeling it."
The Hawks (20-9), however, might not have an opponent tonight. FHSAA spokesman Seth Polansky told media members to look for an announcement on the organization's website regarding Pace's program.
The Patriots (28-2), ranked No. 2 in the nation by ESPNRise and No. 3 by USA Today and MaxPreps, beat King 11-1. But they could be in violation of an FHSAA rule limiting out-of-state contests. According to the FHSAA program, Pace played 10 of its 24 regular-season games out of state, or 41.67 percent. According to the rule, a team can't play more than 40 percent of its games out of state. The Vero Beach girls lacrosse team was stripped of a state title last year under the same rule.
The Hawks scored all their runs with two outs in the first inning, sending eight batters to the plate. Tanner Emmons' bases-loaded walk starting the scoring, followed by a Cramer single. The last run came in on an error.
Armwood had just two baserunners after the first, but turned two double plays.
"Last year we were flat and we knew we couldn't come out flat," Powers said. "We couldn't not play hard all game."