FORT MYERS — Sickles held a two-run lead, and junior starting pitcher Cameron Guise appeared to have found a groove in Wednesday’s Class 6A final against Viera.
It was the bottom of the fifth inning, and Gryphons slugger Caden McDonald had just ripped a leadoff double down the leftfield line.
Lightning struck nearby, and the stadium was vacated.
Everyone waited. And waited. And waited.
More than two hours passed before Sickles closer Luke Fikar took the mound and calmly and rather quickly mowed down Viera’s hitters for the final six outs.
“We handled that rain delay extremely well,” said Sickles coach Eric Luksis, a year after his team struggled through a rain delay before losing in a state semifinal. “This time, that rain delay was not a disadvantage for us. We were ready for it.”
When the sun came out (complete with a full rainbow), Sickles had won its first-ever state baseball title with a 4-2 victory, finishing its season with a 30-2 record, including victories in its final 22 games.
The Gryphons will finish ranked among the top five teams in Florida regardless of classification after entering the state final ranked No. 4 by maxpreps.com.
Stars? There are plenty on the Gryphons’ roster.
Leading the way was McDonald, who in Tuesday’s semifinal smashed his 12th homer of the season and narrowly missed a perfect game by allowing a single in a 2-0 victory over Winter Springs. McDonald followed up that effort Wednesday by going 1-for-2 with a double and a run scored while making a couple of defensive gems at first base.
There was catcher Justin Allen, who collected two RBIs on Wednesday, and helped guide McDonald on Tuesday and Guise on Wednesday from behind the plate. Guise went five innings, giving up two unearned runs on four hits while striking out six.
Up the middle was the outstanding defensive play of shortstop Jordan Yost, Fikar and Guise (who switched spots at shortstop and second base, depending on who was pitching). Behind them was centerfielder Hayden Yost, who tracked down pretty much any ball hit in his vicinity.
In leftfield and rightfield were error-free Connor Vance and Nico Berg. Designated hitter Bryce Vance went 2-for-2 on Wednesday.
“All these guys handled everything so well this year,” Luksis said. “They stayed hungry and kept working hard. It’s such a special group.
“We have great leaders on this team, and everybody is a team player. I’m just so happy that they’re able to go out on top like this. It’s a special night. It’s a great night to be a Gryphon.”
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Sickles got off to a quick start, scoring three runs in the first inning on a walk, a double, an intentional walk to McDonald and a two-run single by Allen.
Allen said he “thought it was disrespectful” that they walked McDonald to get to him. “So I just wanted to do whatever I could to get it done. Just stay myself. Don’t try to be somebody that I’m not and get my job done, and I did that.”
Nervous? A couple of Gryphons admitted to butterflies, including pitchers Guise and Fikar. They didn’t last long.
“This was the biggest game of my life, so there were some nerves,” Guise said. “But once I got out there, the nerves kind of settled. It was “go” time. There was no going back now. I just went out and tried to do what I did all year. Just go out and throw strikes.”