VERO BEACH — Bloomingdale entered the postseason as a district runnerup and survived three region road games decided by two runs or fewer.
Thursday, another nail-biting moment occurred, this time during the Class 8A state championship against Oviedo Hagerty. The Bulls had a three-run lead in the seventh inning when they gave up two runs. Now locked in a tight game, junior pitcher Lace Smith had to work out of a jam with runners on first and third and two outs.
"I wanted to pee my pants," said Smith, a Buffalo commit.
Instead, Smith found the wherewithal to get the final batter to pop up, sealing a 3-2 win at Historic Dodgertown. It was the Bulls' second state title, the first coming in 1993.
"We just all believed in ourselves," Smith said.
Hagerty, which was playing in its first state title game, entered as the top-ranked team in the 8A state poll. But the Bulls looked stronger, particularly on offense. Bloomingdale (26-2) had two runners on in each of the first two innings but were unable to score.
In the third inning, Hagerty pitcher Samantha Worrell started feeling the effects of a cut on the index finger of her throwing hand.
"It was really hard to grip the ball," Worrell said. "I tried to seal it with some glue. But that came off and so did the skin by the end of the inning."
As Worrell labored to get through the inning, the Bulls pounced. They batted around and scored three runs. The big hits were a run-scoring single by Samantha Selden and two-run single by Tyler Farrell.
"I was just trying to put the ball in play and knock in a few runs," Farrell said. "I saw the ball well, and I guess I got lucky."
Working with a lead, Smith started to mow down batters, allowing just four hits through the first six innings.
In the seventh, things became dicey.
Hagerty started getting hits — and scoring. The lead went from three runs to one.
"We had always come back before. Our backs were against the wall," said Worrell, who pitched a complete game. "We started scoring, and it was kind of symbolic of our season."
The Bulls were accustomed to tight games, too. But this was their biggest test.
"I think we were all worried, but we still had faith we could get it done," Smith said.
And just like the region games the previous three weeks, the Bulls survived.
"This was most definitely a team win," coach Mandy Schuerman said. "It's unique in that there's not one player that we're constantly relying on. There's always a different player that seems to come through."
In all, the Bulls had nine hits, including two each by Selden, Elizabeth Jackson and Darby Bernaldo. Bloomingdale was good at making contact, striking out just four times.
"The timely hitting showed," Schuerman said. "We had runners in scoring position throughout the game, and when we needed them, our bats came through."
Bob Putnam can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.