The Largo junior baseball team had yet to face a deficit during play at the Little League Section 7 tournament over the weekend.
And it picked an unfortunate time to fall behind for the first time.
Facing Palma Ceia in Sunday's championship game at Cross Bayou Little League, Largo found itself trailing 7-6 with one inning to play thanks to a three-run Palma Ceia sixth-inning home run.
The forlorn faces in the Largo dugout were quick to disappear.
Down to its final out, Largo scored the tying run on a catcher's interference call, then scored three more times in the seventh inning to take a 10-7 lead.
Largo gave up a run in the bottom of the seventh to escape with a 10-8 victory over Palma Ceia and take the sectional crown with a 3-0 tournament record.
Largo was the only county team to win a sectional tournament this season.
"All 12 of our kids have just been incredibly hard workers," Largo manager Bob Gibree said. "They're a really good group that loves to play. I'll call for a 6 p.m. practice, and I'll get there at 5:30 p.m. and there will be 10 kids already there taking grounders."
Largo advances to this weekend's eight-team state tournament, where it will open against the Section 5 champion at 4 p.m. Friday. Largo will play two more pool games Saturday. Pool winners and runnersup advance to Sunday's semifinals. The championship is scheduled for Monday.
Against Palma Ceia, which also entered Sunday's championship 2-0, Javier Otero put Largo ahead with an RBI single in the first inning.
With the scored tied at 1 in the third, Steven Petrilyak doubled home a run to give Largo a 2-1 lead. After Palma Ceia tied the game in the bottom half of the inning, Petrilyak uncorked a two-run home run in the fourth to give Largo a two-run cushion.
"That was a big, big hit," Gibree said.
Largo entered the sixth inning with a 6-4 lead before Palma Ceia's three-run home had the team trailing for the first time in the tournament.
With the bases loaded and two outs in the seventh, Gibree gave Otero the sign at third to steal home. Palma Ceia's catcher moved up to take the pitch early, but in the process interfered with Troy Cardenas' swing at the plate. Cardenas was awarded first on catcher's interference and Otero scored the tying run. A couple of walks and an unearned run later and Largo secured a 10-7 lead it would hold for the championship.
Petrilyak started on the mound for Largo and lasted four innings, giving up four runs. Andy Weiss entered in the seventh with runners on first and second but got out of the jam to pick up the save.
"That Palma Ceia team was loaded with talent," Gibree said. "One through nine, up and down the lineup, they had great players."
On Saturday, Largo rode Tyler Short's complete-game performance into the championship with a 7-2 win over Seminole.
Short gave up one earned and one unearned run to record the victory; 63 of his 85 pitches went for strikes.
"I told him before the game he was going to be our horse, and he needed to saddle up," Gibree said. "If he could go only three or four innings, we were going to be in trouble. But he told me, 'Coach, I can go the distance.' He was unbelievable."
Otero hit a home run, his third since the start of tournament play, in the fourth inning. Weiss, Ryan Cunningham and Ruben Aguirre had RBI singles.
Largo opened the sectional tournament Friday with a 3-1 victory over Greater Hudson.
Largo got solid pitching from starter Angel Torres Jr., who gave up one run in four innings, and reliever Derek Gibree, who shut out Hudson over two innings. Andrew Murphy pitched a perfect seventh inning to record a save.
Otero singled home a run in the first, and Largo scored twice in the opening inning to take an early lead. Murphy knocked in an insurance run in the seventh with an RBI single.
SECTIONAL NEWS: Palm Harbor came within one run of advancing to the state Little League tournament in the major baseball division. The District 12 champion defeated Central Citrus 6-5 Friday and Seminole 12-2 Saturday to set up a showdown with unbeaten Bayshore in Sunday's championship at Seminole Little League, but Palm Harbor fell 6-5 and had to settle for the sectional runnerup trophy. … Seminole finished 1-2 and took third in the major baseball sectional. … In junior baseball, Seminole went 0-3 to place fourth. … Southwest/Cross Bayou defeated Clearwater 13-11 Saturday for its only tournament win in the senior baseball sectional at Seminole LL. Southwest/Cross Bayou placed third; Clearwater, winless for the tournament, was fourth.
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