TAMPA — The first five innings represented the good for Berkeley Prep. After that, the bad and the ugly surfaced.
After going toe-to-toe with Orlando First Academy for most of the night, the Bucs’ outstanding season came to a crashing halt Wednesday when the Royals erupted for seven runs in the sixth inning for a 7-1 victory and a Class 3A region title.
It was the 20th consecutive victory for First Academy (29-1), MaxPreps’ No. 15-ranked 3A team. No. 16 Berkeley Prep finished 24-5.
Berkeley Prep starter JT Quinn and First Academy’s Isaac Sewell, a pair of juniors, were locked in a scoreless pitching duel through five innings — thanks to excellent defense by both teams’ leftfielders. The Bucs had a runner thrown out at the plate in the second by sophomore Nathan Seeber, and Berkeley Prep senior Knox Meier made a diving catch while racing toward the infield with the bases loaded to end the top of the fifth, saving at least two runs.
But the game swung in the following inning. Quinn, who retired the first nine hitters and allowed only one hit through five, was replaced by senior Evan Parmer after throwing 77 pitches (55 strikes). Parmer wound up being the first of three Bucs to pitch in the nightmarish inning that featured three singles, four walks, a two-base throwing error, one hit batter, two passed balls and a wild pitch.
Twelve Royals batted in the inning, with nine of the first 10 reaching base.
“It was a pretty bad spot to have the worst inning of the season,” Berkeley Prep coach Rich Warren said. “But it happens, and I’m sure our guys would like to get that inning back where we make some plays and throw a little more strikes. But that’s part of the game. We were able to do that to some teams along the playoff run, and we just had it done to us (Wednesday).”
Junior designated hitter-pitcher Ben Barrett, a Florida State commit, started First Academy’s outburst with a single. Junior catcher Riley Parker, a UCF commit, followed with a bunt to the right side of the infield with no Buc in the vicinity of making a play on the ball. Seeber then laid down another bunt that Parmer fielded and threw wildly past first for a two-base error, scoring Barrett.
One out later, sophomore Trent Kelly delivered a two-run single, and First Academy started to roll. Kelly was one of six consecutive Royals to reach base safely, with four being walked and the other hit by a pitch.
“The bunt defense hurt (Berkeley Prep in the sixth),” First Academy coach Scott Grove said. “We got some bunts down, and we practice bunting all the time. We knew that bunting was going to come down to helping us score some runs, and it did.”
The cushion was more than enough for Sewell, a left-hander who improved his record to 14-0. He pitched six shutout innings, allowing five hits with six strikeouts and a walk. Berkeley Prep’s run came in the seventh on a double by junior Anthony Castillo off Barrett, scoring Meier.
The First Academy had only four hits.
“I was personally surprised (Quinn was removed after the fifth),” Grove said. “But again, they have so many good arms. We were just fortunate to score some runs.”
Warren didn’t second-guess his decision to replace Quinn, who struck out six with one walk and a hit batter.
“(Quinn) hasn’t gone that high in his pitch count the past couple of weeks,” Warren said. “We’re always going to protect our kids — health over win — and we just felt that was the moment to take him out.”
Berkeley Prep had six hits, two by sophomore first baseman James Hankerson.
“Twenty-four and five is a pretty good year for us,” Warren said. “(We want to) continue to build on it, and try to continue the legacy that’s been left by these seniors and the seniors from last year.
“I think we had to beat some good teams to get to this point.”
Region baseball finals
Class 5A: Jefferson 6, Land O’ Lakes 5
Class 5A: Naples Barron Collier 3, Osceola 2
Class 4A: Dunedin 6, Cape Coral Mariner 3
Class 4A: Nature Coast 6, Orlando Bishop Moore 1
Class 3A: Orlando First Academy 7, Berkeley Prep 1
State baseball semifinals
CenturyLink Sports Complex, Fort Myers
Class 7A: Durant vs. Port Orange Spruce Creek, 10 a.m. Friday
Class 6A: Bloomingdale vs. Palm Beach Gardens Dwyer, 7 p.m. Friday
Class 5A: Jefferson vs. Lynn Haven Mosley, 10 a.m. Tuesday
Class 4A: Dunedin vs. North Broward Prep 7 p.m. Monday
Class 4A: Nature Coast vs. Citra North Marion, 4 p.m. Monday