ST. PETERSBURG — St. Petersburg Catholic stood on the brink of appearing in the school's first region final since 2004.
With one mighty swing, however, Cardinal Mooney's Jon Zalud crushed the Barons' hopes.
Zalud smashed Justin Tedder's 0-1 offering high over the leftfield wall for a three-run home run in the ninth inning of a tie game to send the Cougars to the region championship with a 9-5, extra-inning win over SPC.
Still, Barons first-year coach John Vigue couldn't be disappointed, especially considering the turnaround the program showed in just a year.
"This is a team that wasn't .500 last year," he said. "To do what we've done in a year, everybody's buying into the program and believing."
The Barons (16-13) fell behind 5-2 on Thomas Goodman's two-run homer to right off of SPC starter Tim McKay in the top of the fourth. SPC got a run back in the bottom half when Connor Obrochta drew a bases-loaded, one out walk, but the next two batters struck out.
SPC tied it in the sixth on Tedder's two-out single that scored Tito Santos and Zander Devlin.
"We always feel we're never down. We scrap," Vigue said. "We always felt like we could come back. I just thought tonight we fell one hit short."
Tedder relieved McKay to open the sixth and shut out the Cougars (18-9) through the eighth. The sophomore southpaw struck out six batters, despite pitching just three days earlier.
"This was not his normal rest," Vigue said. "The kid gave everything he had. He wanted the ball, and he gave us a chance to win. That's what we asked for when we gave (the ball) to him."
Tedder gave up a leadoff single in the ninth, then issued a walk before Zalud's homer.
Ryan Heuler followed with a double, and Kevin Phillips singled him home to push the Cougars' lead to 9-5.
Obrochta's opposite-field two-run homer in the first staked SPC to a 2-0 lead. Mooney cut the lead in half in the second on Heuler's opposite field solo blast and grabbed the lead on Phillips' two-RBI infield single with the bases loaded and two outs in the third.