SEMINOLE — Talk about a wow factor.
And talk about making a statement.
With Osceola leading 6-5, Taylor Layner had just allowed the tying run to reach base to open the seventh inning of the championship game Thursday at the Osceola Spring Invitational.
After a sacrifice bunt that advanced the Sarasota Cardinal Mooney runner to second, the freshman pitcher, who usually starts, put himself in an even more precarious situation by tossing a wild pitch that allowed the runner to reach third.
It seemed the lefty with the shaggy hair who had smacked a two-run homer and thrown out a runner at home from centerfield just wanted it that way.
With the poise of a senior, though, he calmly induced the next batter into a groundout to second and struck out the last batter looking, helping Osceola beat the Class 3A No. 6-ranked team in the state 6-5.
"I was just trying to throw strikes," said Layner, who earned his first save of the season. "I knew I couldn't throw the ball in the dirt because a run would score, so I had to go after him, and that's what I did."
Layner had been instrumental at the plate and in the field.
In the first inning, after Cardinal Mooney (15-3) had taken a 2-0 lead off starter Winston Rivas, left-handed swinging Layner stepped to the plate with a runner on and smashed the first pitch from Cardinal Mooney starter Tommy Goodman over the right-centerfield fence.
Then, in the third inning with the bases loaded and a run already in, Layner caught a fly ball in centerfield and threw a perfect strike to the cutoff man, who got the runner at home.
The Osceola bats then took advantage of the momentum, scoring four in the third.
Eric Caplan got the inning started with a double to deep center followed by a run-scoring double by Mike Boriboun. Adam Lewis reached on a bunt single, and Boriboun scored on a fielder's choice from Brandon Burke, in which Lewis was out at second. Layner then singled to advance Burke to third and then, after a stolen base by Layner, Joey LaRose smacked a two-run single to left.
Rivas gave up two runs in the fourth and battled through the inning without surrendering more.
"I liked the way we competed tonight and the way our pitchers responded to the challenge," Osceola coach Kevin Mullins said. "Winston did a good job keeping us in the game, and then the two freshmen came in and proved how versatile we are this year."
Boriboun entered in the fifth as the first reliever and, just like his counterpart, calmly tossed two scoreless innings without allowing a hit.
Layner then entered and, as he says, "did what Mariano Rivera does."
The win over the Cougars proved that the Warriors (12-6) can play with the best and demonstrates how far they've come since last season when they won only six games.
"To beat a team like that is a signature win for our kids and our program," Mullins said. "I think now they know how to win and what it takes to win."