SARASOTA — It began the moment the ball disappeared into Cammeron Fisher's glove. Seconds later, a swarm of triumphant Dunedin players rushed toward the mound to celebrate a 3-2 victory and the school's first state baseball title in 44 years.
"This is something you dream about," Fisher said. "To make the final out is unbelievable, especially going through so many ups and downs in a game like this."
There already were lingering memories — of the heart-wrenching moments in the seventh inning, of the nail-biting rally in extra innings, of a game snatched from defeat — that the players swore they never doubted.
The winning run scored in the top of the 10th inning when Max Kreuter singled in Max Priest against Stuart South Fork. The two played the longest championship game since 1997.
"It was a little nerve-racking, but we have so many bats in this lineup that we knew we had a chance," Kreuter said.
But this game was won with defense and pitching.
The Falcons had a two-run lead then watched it disappear when the Bulldogs scored a run each in the third and fifth innings to tie it.
In the seventh, South Fork (27-6) had runners on first and third with no outs. The Falcons walked the next runner to load the bases.
At that point, Dunedin was desperate to win — and keep its state title hopes from vanishing.
"We were on the edge of our seats at that point," Dunedin coach Tom Hilbert said. "Our backs were against the wall. But we were able to maintain our composure."
Slowly, the Falcons (26-6) found a way to wiggle out of the jam.
Alex Norris, who came on in relief of Clay Kollenbaum, got the first and only batter he faced to ground out.
Jake Rogers came in next and got the next two batters to strike out and fly out.
"It was just incredible to come out of that the way we did," Rogers said. "I had so much adrenaline going."
Beneath the noise, tension and pressure, Rogers emerged more as a survivor than a closer.
With so much at stake, Rogers knew he couldn't afford to make mistakes. He escaped unharmed, throwing 31/3 innings after pitching just three before Thursday's appearance.
"Jake was just phenomenal," Hilbert said. "It was a real gutsy performance."
It remained scoreless through the next three innings.
Then the Falcons, after squandering so many chances, made something happen in the 10th. Priest led off the inning by drawing a walk, then moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by Mike Kumbat and advanced to third on a wild pitch. Priest scored on Kreuter's single.
Rogers then finished things off. The moment Fisher caught the ball, Rogers sprung off the mound, shook his fist, twirled in a crazy leap and came down to earth knowing he would be able to sleep.
"I think all of us are going to pass out on the bus on the ride home," Rogers said. "It was such a draining game, so full of emotions.
"But it was so worth it to win like this."
Bob Putnam can be reached at
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Dunedin 002 000 000 1— 3 8 2
South Fork 001 010 000 0— 2 10 2
W - Rogers (1-0). L - Schultz (0-1). 2B - Dun: M.Kreuter. 3B - Dun: Fisher. Dunedin 26-6, South Fork 27-6.