FORT MYERS — Leto coach J.J. Pizzio was questioning his decision making after Wednesday's 5-3 Class 7A state semifinal loss to Pace at Hammond Stadium. He changed up his pregame meal and the Falcons ended up losing their first state tournament appearance since 1970.
"For 28 games up until today I've had a (McDonald's) quarter pounder with cheese and french fries before every game," Pizzio said. "And today I ate that darn Chick-fil-A. Not that Chick-fil-A isn't for champions, but I drove right by the McDonald's."
Fast food actually had nothing to do with the loss. But Pace pitchers Brandon Sproat and Christian McCollough did.
Sproat held Leto hitless through the first four innings and McCollough thwarted a fifth-inning rally to keep Leto from erasing a four-run deficit.
Pace (24-6) scored three runs off Leto starter Jakob Ryley in the second and third innings, and added a run off reliever Christian Suarez in the fourth to build a 4-0 lead. Chase Bragg and Izzy Ham each had RBI singles in the second for the Patriots. Bennett Shell had a leadoff triple in the third and was brought in by a J.C. Preacher single.
Suarez entered in relief after that hit. He only gave up single runs in the fourth and fifth innings.
Leto (24-5) did not go away.
Jorge Carrero led off the fifth inning with a single, the first hit for the Falcons. He moved to second on Joshua Cruz's ground out. Abel Diaz then doubled home Carrero to cut it to 4-1.
"I was just trying to put the ball in play," Carrero said. "He threw me my favorite pitch, low and inside. I was able to hit it."
Diaz then scored with two outs when an R.J. Gutierrez grounder was mishandled at shortstop. Fernando Muniz followed with a sharp single to cut the lead to 4-3.
Pizzio did keep with tradition before the three-run, fifth-inning rally. He ate french fries in the dugout during the fourth inning.
"Usually he shares," Suarez said. "Today he didn't share."
Pace (24-6) got a run back in the bottom of the fifth when Aidan Gilroy doubled with two outs to drive in a run. In the final two innings, the Falcons could not get a run off reliever McCollough.
"(Leto) is a scrappy team," Pace coach Jason McBride said. "They never quit and I told our guys we had to play seven hard innings against them."
Leto had its best season in 48 years. Pizzio was philosophical about the loss after the game.
"Losing (stinks)," he said. "Winning is a lot better."