FORT MYERS — The wait was worth it.
It took 78 years, two extra innings and a two-hour rain delay, but Jefferson is finally a state baseball champion. The Dragons defeated Merritt Island 6-5 in nine innings Thursday night at Hammond Stadium for the Class 6A title.
"We've been working together all these four years and to be able to pull it off is incredible," senior outfielder/reliever Robby Martin said. "This is big for us. We're going to go down in history."
Junior Oscar Galvez was the hero, with a two-out hit into the right-centerfield gap off Mustangs reliever Collin Taulbee that scored Ty Evans for the winning run. Galvez rounded first base, threw his helmet in the air and waited for his team to pile on in celebration.
"He threw me a curveball in the dirt before that, so I knew he was going to throw a fastball," said Galvez, who was 7-for-9 in two state tournament games and 3-for-5 in the final. "I just needed to stay inside and hit it. I hit it right on the barrel and it fell. I didn't fall down in the dogpile either."
The ninth inning started innocently with a fly out by Marc DeGusipe. Jake Coleman walked and pinch runner Jaiden Duarte was thrown out at second on a fielder's choice.
With two outs, Sal Vega singled to put runners on the corner. Then Galvez came through.
"Once I saw that the ball was going to drop I knew it was time to run out of the dugout," Martin said.
Jefferson scored three runs in the first inning. With one out, Martin hit a towering opposite-field homer to left that made it 1-0. DeGusipe reached on fielder's choice with two outs. Coleman then walked to put two on.
A wild pitch by Chase Victor sent both runners to second and third. A throw to second to get Coleman sailed into the outfield, allowing DeGusipe to score. The throw back in to third also went wild and allowed Coleman to score.
Merritt Island (24-7) got a run in the third. Jefferson (22-8) got it back in the fourth on a perfect hit-and-run single by A.J.Mathis to score Galvez.
The 4-1 lead evaporated in the top of the fifth. The first five Merritt Island batters reached base off DeGusipe. Kyle Dentmon got the big hit, a two-RBI single that cut the lead to 4-3. R.J. Diaz greeted reliever Martin with an RBI single that scored two to make it 5-4. Martin then managed to get out of the inning.
"I had no idea I was coming in until (assistant coach Pete Scaglione) walked out to the mound and pointed at me," Martin said. "But I was ready."
In the fifth, Jefferson tied it on an RBI single by Vega that scored Evans. The score remained tied until Galvez came through with the winner.
Jefferson has only been in a state semifinal once before, in 1985. This was the first time the Dragons have had a chance to play for a state title.
With a rich history that includes players like Tino Martinez, Fred McGriff and Luis Gonzalez, winning a state title is a big accomplishment.
"We did it for everybody who has ever worn that blue and gold over the past 78 years," Scaglione said. "There's been a lot of excellent ball players who have come out of this program."