SEMINOLE — Jordan Doyle saw the fastball coming, and he smacked it.
The Seminole junior sent the pitch past the fence in left-centerfield.
He knew what he had done the instant the ball exploded off his bat.
He raised his arms and held them aloft, joyously triple-jumping around the bases, bounding up and down like Neil Armstrong on the moon.
In stunning fashion, the Warhawks captured the lead on Doyle's grand slam that propelled them to a 4-3 victory over Bradenton IMG Pendleton Academy on Tuesday.
As Doyle rounded the bases, he was mobbed by teammates in a sea of high-fives.
One inning later, the Warhawks sealed the win.
Afterward, the Seminole players took it slowly, scanning the crowd, trying to find the face they needed to see.
Finally, the Warhawks found Joe Starnes.
They all locked eyes.
Joe nodded. The players nodded back.
In that flickering exchange was everything important, every truth about caring and loss and letting go.
It was then that the Seminole players were able to release themselves from the emotionally exhausting task of winning a game for Brett Starnes, a junior at the school who died this past weekend of complications from diabetes.
Starnes was the younger brother of Shaun Starnes, who played for the Warhawks from 2005-08.
Some members of the Starnes family were at the game, including Brett's father, Joe.
"We all wanted to play as hard as possible and try as hard to win this game," Doyle said.
The team has dealt with death before.
On April 10, Nate Richardson, a freshman on the baseball team, was among four students killed in a car crash.
Richardson's memory spurred Seminole on the rest of last season. The Warhawks played with a fierce mission and made the playoffs.
Each day became a little easier. And each day, the players drew a little closer. They began looking out for one another, making sure nobody was alone.
They dedicated this season to Richardson, stitching his number — 35 — onto their jerseys.
Then came another tragedy this past weekend.
Emotions ran high this week, but rather than let their feelings overcome them, the Seminole players used it to their advantage.
Starnes' memory spurred them on.
"It has been a real emotional time for the team," Warhawks coach Greg Olsen said. "But the players have handled it really well."
Bob Putnam can be reached at [email protected]