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Bishop McLaughlin grits out a tense, 10-inning thriller

The Hurricanes top a game Northside Christian team to reach their first region final since 2017.
Bishop McLaughlin survives a three-hour, 10-inning marathon against Northside Christian to reach its first region final since 2017.
Bishop McLaughlin survives a three-hour, 10-inning marathon against Northside Christian to reach its first region final since 2017. [ DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times ]
Published May 13
Updated May 13

ST. PETERSBURG — All of the hard work, all of the effort, all of the emotion that Isaiah Myles expended to help Bishop McLaughlin regain its lead was almost for naught.

In the top of the 10th inning of Wednesday’s Class 2A region semifinal, the junior’s plate discipline and hustle garnered the Hurricanes a 4-3 advantage. But with two outs in the bottom of the frame, two hit batters and a walk — issued by closer Myles to the bottom three batters of host Northside Christian’s lineup — put the tying and winning runs in scoring position. Then he ran the count full to senior Zach Johnson, who already had an RBI hit on the night.

After already yielding a two-out, tying home run to senior Ryan Lowe that sent the contest to extra innings, the pressure was squarely on Myles. But Johnson didn’t even get a shot to produce.

With a moment’s pause and some brilliant situational thinking, Myles calmly set, then fired the ball to third base, picking off a Mustang runner breaking early for the plate. Senior Jacob Duncan applied the tag to the retreating runner, ending the three-hour marathon and sending Bishop (20-7) to its first region final since 2017.

“I was struggling a little bit trying to throw strikes,” the right-hander said of his four-inning stint where Northside batters touched him up for two runs on three hits. “I just had to take a deep breath, calm down and have trust in my team.”

On the game-ending play, he said: “A lot of guys like to get off early, get a running start. I just had to calm down because if he was going to break, I was going to go get him.”

“He has a great baseball IQ,” Hurricanes coach Marc Eskew said. “That’s just one of those things we’ve learned to expect from him, that he’ll make plays like that.”

The ending was especially heartbreaking for Northside Christian (15-13-1), considering it fought back from a 3-1 deficit suffered on sophomore Andrew Duncan’s three-run, third-inning blast.

A quick return throw from senior reliever Shane McClanahan (three hits allowed over five innings) caught Myles trying to steal home in the fifth. Perfect relay throws from sophomore leftfielder Scott Lynch and senior shortstop Elijah Baptist nailed freshman Nick Cucchi at the plate in the sixth. Offensively, sophomore Andrew Williamson’s second double and third hit of the night paid dividends in the seventh on junior Ryan Cerrone’s RBI sacrifice fly that set the stage for Lowe’s huge shot.

But Myles wasn’t going to back down. With two out in the top of the 10th, he got drilled with a pitch, dropped his bat and yelled, “Let’s go! Let’s go!” to fire up his teammates before heading to first base.

Breaking to second on the second pitch Duncan faced, Myles forced a poor throw from the catcher and advanced to third. Duncan was walked intentionally to set up an inning-ending force play but a balk scored Myles, setting the scene for a pulse-pounding finish.

“I wouldn’t say it was handling pressure, I’d say it was having faith and confidence in yourself and your team,” Myles said. “If you don’t have faith, you’re going to struggle a lot.”

“(Northside) made some big plays to stay in the game, some clutch hits to tie it, and then it just became a battle of who’s going to break through,” Eskew said. “We were lucky enough to be the one.”

Mustangs assistant coach Scott Roix said: “Our team fought hard all year long. We put together a tough schedule purposely for the end of April and the kids had no quit in them. In the end, we left 13 men on base (Wednesday) and that hurt. That always hurts.”

Bishop will travel to Sarasota on Saturday to face Out-of-Door Academy, a come-from-behind 10-7 victor over Fort Myers Canterbury in the night’s other semifinal.

Region baseball semifinals

7A: Durant 7, Sarasota Riverview 0

6A: Bloomingdale 2, Mitchell 1

5A: Land O’ Lakes 3, Ocala Vanguard 0

2A: Bishop McLaughlin 4, Northside Christian 3 (10 innings)

2A: Seffner Christian 11, Winter Haven All Saints’ 2