SARASOTA — After two days of rain delays and a third straight extra-inning game, East Lake's season came to a disappointing end late Wednesday night. The Eagles held a one-run lead in the bottom of the eighth inning against Sarasota in the Class 8A region semifinal, but gave up two runs to lose 3-2.
Sarasota (22-9) will host Steinbrenner on Tuesday in the region final. East Lake ends its season 22-6.
"I told the guys that if we win this game we would've earned it," East Lake coach Zack Roper said. "Two trips down here, two rain delays, graduation at 7:30 this morning. Guys were tired but we fought back to take the lead. There is a reason closers get paid millions of dollars."
Here's how the final inning played out. The game was tied 1-all when East Lake's Jacob Sessa led off with a double to leftfield. Seth Caballes beat out a bunt to put runners on first and third. One out later, Aaric Wabnitz walked to load the bases.
Ivan Cruz then hit a grounder to third. The throw home for the force out was knocked out of the catcher's glove by Sessa to make the score 2-1. The Eagles left the bases load for the third time in the game but had a one-run lead.
"I was hoping that wouldn't come back to bite us," Roper said.
In the bottom of the inning, Danny Natelson was brought in for relief. Alex Arauz led off with a double. One out later, Johnny Mucci doubled to tie the score. Brooks Larson followed with a double to the right-centerfield gap.
"The last three outs are the toughest," Roper said. "And Danny has done an outstanding job for us the entire year."
The game was actually a continuation of a rain delay from Tuesday night. The Eagles had the bases loaded with two outs in the first inning when play resumed, but failed to score.
East Lake starter Connor Churchill got out of jams in the first two innings but wasn't as lucky in the bottom of the third. A leadoff single by Nick Winkelmeyer and a one out single from Arauz put two men on. Cole Madden then hit a sharp grounder up the middle that scored Winkelmeyer to make it 1-0.
Churchill got the next two batters to get out of the inning. East Lake did not have a hit going into the fifth inning. With one out, Sean Murray hit a grounder to third and a wild throw allowed him to get to second. With rain falling, Wilbert Vargas was hit by a pitch to put runners on first and second.
Then the rain picked up and play was halted. East Lake got its first run right after the delay when Sessa was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded.