PORT ST. LUCIE — Cambridge shortstop Trent Tagliarini wiped the rain from the silver medal he clutched in his right hand and stared second place square in the face — again.
"I know it wasn't meant to be," the Lancers senior said.
For the second straight season, Cambridge fell one win short of its first state championship. But after the Lancers' 10-6 10-inning loss to Deltona Trinity Catholic in Thursday's Class A title game, Cambridge was left to ponder the fine line between a silent clubhouse full of "what ifs" and a jubilant celebration.
Trinity coach Mike Maples Sr. put it best: "I think we had 10 chances to win and 10 chances to lose, and they did, too."
During the three-hour, 10-minute back-and-forth game, the teams traded momentum and failed opportunities. They combined for 26 stranded baserunners and six errors. In the seventh, eighth and ninth innings, Trinity couldn't bring home a runner from third, rallies killed twice by unconventional double plays. And when Cambridge wasn't running its way out of an inning, it also left the bases loaded in a pivotal eighth inning — twice.
Cambridge (20-8) needed a furious sixth-inning rally just to tie the game. The Lancers scored five runs on just two hits, capitalizing on three walks (one intentional) and two hit batters. It was much like the Lancers' late-inning rally against Eagle's View in last year's title game.
"It felt like we were going to come out with it this time," catcher Andrew Widell said.
Even the opposing dugout feared the game had turned.
"I thought, 'Oh no, that was it,' " Maples said.
But the Lancers, who defeated Trinity 18-0 in five innings in last year's state semifinal, will look to the bottom half of the eighth inning and see where the game — and a state title — got away. Cambridge loaded the bases with no outs, the winning run just 90 feet away at third.
Leadoff hitter Derek Self hit a ball to shallow right, a virtual no-man's land given Tradition Field's vast outfield. Austin Warensford charged to make the catch then quickly threw to first before he was able to tag for a double play.
Two batters later, Tagliarini — who had reached safely in 15 state tournament plate appearances dating to last year and hit at a .909 clip in that span — had the bases loaded again. But he grounded out to first to end the inning.
So it all came crashing down in the 10th, when Trinity (21-12) scored four runs on four hits and two errors, a rally that snowballed when the Lancers' attempt to get the lead runner at third on a bunt turned into a costly throwing error.
And after a dry afternoon, the rain came just in time for Cambridge's silver medal ceremony. The Lancers will bring home a second state finalist trophy.
"There are a lot of people who would like to be in our spot at No. 2 in the state," coach Rick Shears said. "We've got a program at Cambridge now, and I don't know if we had that before. This program is going to be here for a while."