PORT ST. LUCIE — In the aftermath of Armwood's miscue-filled 4-2 loss to Tallahassee Chiles in Monday's FHSAA Class 5A state semifinal, the Hawks hope to emerge a better team.
Armwood just completed its best season in school history: a 22-5 record, its first district championship in 20 years and its first trip to the state tournament.
But the way the Hawks' season ended was anything but memorable. Armwood baserunners were picked off four times, another time caught trying for an extra base. The Hawks grounded into two inning-ending double plays and committed two defensive errors.
"If we had played our best game and we lost, it wouldn't feel so bad," Armwood coach Mike Wrenn said. "There were a lot of different things that went on that really hurt us. If that didn't happen, there wouldn't be all the 'What ifs?' "
The game turned ugly in the fifth. First a Chiles runner slid hard into catcher Josh Spano in the top of the inning. Then Spano was ejected after he collided with the Chiles catcher in the bottom of the inning. Both dugouts cleared after the plays.
Still, Armwood had the game-tying run on second base in the seventh until Chiles ended the game by picking off the lead runner at third.
This year might have been the Hawks' best chance to win a state title. Senior pitcher Robert Benincasa (12-1), an FSU recruit, emerged to become one of the top pitchers in the county, and fellow seniors Joe Cartwright (team-leading 33 RBIs) and Kristian Calibuso, who had several timely hits and a solid glove at third, will leave a void.
"We're going to lose a lot in our five seniors," Wrenn said. "It won't be easy."
But a talented junior class headlined by shortstop/pitcher Zack Powers (.471 average, 6 homers, 5-1 record, 1.92 ERA) and first baseman Tyler Alexander give the Hawks hope that this year won't be a fluke.
"Hopefully the juniors will keep that bitter feeling, and it can drive them going into the summer and fall to prove we are better than what we showed," Wrenn said.
It didn't end the way the Hawks has hoped, but Wrenn hopes the best season in Armwood baseball history will hopefully be a stepping stone for future success.
"This is the first Armwood team to make it to the final four," Wrenn said. "Being one of the last four teams in the state is an accomplishment. And we were there until the end. I would hope this makes us better. They know what this is like now. They've experienced it."