PORT ST. LUCIE — Alonso senior Ray Delphey clutched the hardware of a grueling season's worth of obstacles Saturday.
But as the Ravens' injured former ace, whose season was cut short by a knee injury, held the school's first state baseball championship trophy — and the first won by a Hillsborough County team since 2001 — even he couldn't predict this season ending with gold medals.
"We were a bunch of goofs," Delphey said. "I thought we had the talent, but I didn't know if we had the mentality to do it. I didn't think we had the urgency to do it. But this tells you how this team can step up in big situations."
The Ravens came to Tradition Field for the Class 6A state tournament seeking history. They left as the perfect example of how titles are won — with clutch pitching and flawless defense in a 4-3 win over Miami Columbus.
"If you look at our stats," Alonso coach Landy Faedo said. "We don't give much up."
Sophomore pitcher Jose Fernandez, who likely wouldn't have started this game had Delphey not been injured, recovered from a three-run first inning to retire 18 straight.
And Alonso (30-3) took advantage of five Columbus errors, the biggest one coming in a deadlocked top of the sixth when pinch runner Ed Williams baited a catcher's throw to third. The throw sailed into leftfield, allowing Williams to trot home with the eventual winning run.
"When you get two good teams playing against each other, it's the first one to make the mistakes that normally comes second — we just capitalized on their mistakes," said catcher Adam Pendleton, who singled in the sixth to put that winning run on base.
Despite losing just three games this season, this was a year of hurdles. The Ravens lost Delphey, later fell to Gaither in the district title game, then had to win four regional games on the road, logging roughly 400 bus miles before their trip to Port St. Lucie.
"It's been a long and grueling season," said senior first baseman Casey Smit, who doubled twice, scored two runs and scooped up the final ball of the game, tossing it to reliever Jordan Huchro covering first. "We've been working hard six days a week, nonstop. When we had a day off we were still practicing. It's been a really long hard season, and it's finally paid off."
Alonso had to battle back one more time. After falling behind 3-2 after one inning, both pitchers bore down — and the Ravens stranded a runner in scoring position in the second, third and fourth innings.
But in the fifth, Smit's two-out double over the centerfielder's head was followed by Matt Brandy's tying double.
"It changed the momentum," Brandy said. "They had it all, and when we got that hit, we kept that momentum going."
The next inning, Pendleton singled and Williams swiped second and third, and baited that errant throw to third.
"All the atmosphere, all the people, they can't even hear you from the dugout, and I think they just got caught up in it," Faedo said. "After that first inning, they settled down and played Alonso baseball. We've been doing that all year."