MERRITT ISL. 6, SARASOTA 5: Four-run outburst in 7th delivers 2nd title in a row.
Looking objectively at Merritt Island's situation as the Mustangs entered their final at-bat down three runs in the Class 5A final, a person could come to one conclusion.
Merritt Island was toast.
Two hit batsmen, four wild pitches, four walks and two singles later, the Mustangs had themselves a stunning 6-5 win that left many at Legends Field gasping for breath. Jeff Howell's bunt single with one out and the bases full was the game-winning hit.
Coincidentally enough, it scored a player named Brendan Winn.
"Quite honestly, Sarasota pretty much gave it to us," Merritt Island coach Chuck Goldfarb said.
The title is the second in as many years for Merritt Island (30-4), which had not won a championship prior to 1999.
Sarasota (27-8) dominated for the better part of six innings, but in the seventh things quickly went downhill for the Sailors.
Bryan Stanton singled to left to start the inning, causing Sarasota coach Clyde Metcalf to pull starter James Houser in favor of Mark Mynatt. Mynatt hit the first batter he faced, then threw three consecutive balls, one for a wild pitch.
After four Mynatt pitches, Metcalf called for another reliever, Justin Gee (4-3), but he was equally ineffective. Gee walked the bases full, then walked Winn to bring in one run and make it 5-3, still with nobody out.
He then walked Kevin Deaton, and got pulled with the score 5-4.
"As soon as our first guy got on, I felt that everybody in the dugout thought we could win," Deaton said.
With pressure building, Metcalf turned to Friday's winner, Jason Miller. A wild pitch tied the game, but Miller struck out Bart Hynes for out No. 1.
Howell, whose ground-rule double drove in the go-ahead run in Merritt Island's semifinal win, made sure Miller's success was short-lived.
Merritt Island's rally spoiled the gutsy performance of Houser, the first freshman hurler to play for the Sailors during Metcalf's 19 seasons. In six innings, he allowed nine hits, but only two earned runs and struck out seven.