NAPLES — Sunlake ran into Gulf Coast pitcher Niels Stone, who pitched a three-hitter as the Sharks won 2-1 in the Class 7A region championship Tuesday.
Stone struck out eight and walked only one in a brilliant six-inning performance.
Zach Lang pitched the last inning for the save for Gulf Coast (24-7).
Sunlake (17-12) starting pitcher Tommy Mace wasn't bad either, allowing only five hits. But a two-run third inning was enough for a Gulf Coast victory.
"We're definitely disappointed right now," said Sunlake coach Chris Stambek. "Gulf Coast took advantage of its opportunities tonight, and that's what good teams do against you. It all came down to execution. It was a great season for us, especially considering a lot of people didn't think we'd get out of districts."
Gulf Coast will play in the state semifinals next Wednesday at Hammond Stadium in Fort Myers.
Shut out for most of the game, the Seahawks refused to go quietly, rallying for a run in the seventh. But with the bases loaded and one out, Lang got a game-ending double play.
"We had a 'no-quit' mentality tonight, and we owe a lot of that to the senior leadership we have," Stambek said. "We knew we'd get a competitive performance from Mace. He will always give us a chance to compete."
Shane Marshall had two hits for Gulf Coast. Teammates Jaime Soto and Tanner Ison each had an RBI.
"Scratching across one or two runs was huge for us," Gulf Coast coach Pete Garcia said. "We didn't swing and miss much and weren't intimidated. Niels Stone mixed up his fastball well. This is a huge accomplishment for us."
The Sharks naturally drew first blood in the third inning. Chadd Heersema was hit by a pitch to start the inning, then he went to second on a balk. Drake Dobyanski then sacrificed Heersema over to third and a groundout put the Sharks ahead 1-0. Marshall then doubled to left and came home on Ison's RBI single to make it 2-0.
The Seahawks had some opportunities, stranding four runners in scoring position in a span of three innings.
Sunlake's best chance came in the fourth when an error, a single by Dawson Place and a balk put runners at second and third, then Stone struck out Ryan Rodriguez.
Kyle Oliver walked with the bases loaded to score Josh Adkins in the seventh for the Seahawks' only run.