After digging themselves into an eight-run hole, the Florida Christian Patriots powered their way to a 13-12 comeback victory — and a trip to the state tournament — in a wild Region 4-3A final against Coral Springs Christian.
“We’ve been through so much and this is such a huge lift for us,” Florida Christian coach Chris Brigman said. “These guys refuse to quit.”
Pitching was problematic for both squads on Friday night with the teams combining for 25 runs, but just 13 hits.
The Crusaders took advantage of the Patriots’ spotty pitching as the game commenced, scoring three in the first and adding five more in the second to take a commanding 8-0 lead.
But the Patriots stormed back in the bottom of the second with a 10-run outburst highlighted by a three-run home run by left fielder Chris Granada to spark the rally, and a three-run double by designated hitter Michael Fernandez to give Florida Christian its first lead of the game.
After the Crusaders tied the game again with two runs in the third, Patriots right fielder Erik Montero responded, taking a two-out, two-strike pitch over the left field wall for a three-run blast to put Florida Christian back in the lead, this time for good.
A two-run home run by Crusaders’ starting pitcher Touki Toussaint made it a one-run game in the seventh inning, giving the Patriots a late scare. But reliever Chris Pelaez held on for the save, striking out the final two batters to bring the game to a close.
WP: Alex Valverde. LP: Colin Taylor. SV: Chris Pelaez.
• Region 4-4A final — Monsignor Pace 5, St. Brendan 0: Jonathan Hernandez was not going to be denied on Friday night. The senior pitcher from Monsignor Pace, after a rocky start to the game, settled in and fired a gem at the St. Brendan Sabres as Pace defeated host St. Brendan before a large crowd at FIU.
And with the win, the Spartans (23-6) advance to their second state final four in a row and will take on Ocala Trinity Catholic in a 4A state semifinal on May 20 at Jet Blue Park in Fort Myers.
Pace suffered a tough 1-0 loss to Fort Myers Bishop Verot in last year’s state semifinal.
After walking the first two batters to start the game and eventually getting out of the jam thanks to a double play from the defense, Hernandez settled in and fired a complete-game, three-hit shutout and never walked another Sabre the rest of the night.
“I guess I was a little overpumped to start the game and was overthrowing a little bit,” said Hernandez. “Once my defense got me out of that first inning with the [double play,] I was really able to settle down and find a nice groove.”
For St. Brendan, it was a tough way to end an epic season as the Sabres (16-12) made their deepest run in the regional playoffs since they won a state championship back in 1983.
Pace got out of the gate and took the lead with the only two runs it would need on the night in the top of the second when Brandon Gomez led off with a double down the left field line and Anthony De la Cruz blooped a single to right to put runners on the corners with no outs.
Gomez scored on an Andrew McCoy sacrifice fly to right and two batters later, after De la Cruz had stolen second and advanced to third on McCoy’s fly out, scored when the St. Brendan shortstop could not field a two-out ground ball off the bat of Leroy Garcia cleanly.