St. Thomas Aquinas saw its bats come to life Friday night as it routed West Boca Raton 11-1 in five innings to advance to the Class 7A state semifinals next week in Fort Myers.
Th Raiders (19-6) will play the Harmony-Haines City winner in the semifinals.
The only time they trailed was after a half inning 1-0, but the Raiders came back with three runs in the bottom of the first and second innings, including a three-run home run to center by Christian Demby.
The rest of the game belonged to starting pitcher Alec Byrd, who gave up only two hits and a run, all in the top of the first.
He retired the final 10 hitters he faced and struck out nine West Boca hitters.
“There’s no secret to our success,” St. Thomas coach Troy Cameron said. “We have great pitching. [Friday night] our bats really came through also. Scoring those three runs in the bottom of the first was big.
“I’ve been throwing a lot of batting practice, and I told the guys that I had one more week left in my arm, but if they keep hitting like that, I’ll throw it all summer.”
It didn’t hurt Byrd, a Florida State recruit, that his lineup had 15 hits, including five extra-bases hits. The Raiders scored in every inning.
Chris Schloss led St. Thomas, going 3 for 3 with one run and three RBI. Demby went 2 for 3 with a home run and three RBI. He was at the plate when West Boca pitcher Chris Brown uncorked a wild pitch that allowed the Raiders to score their final run to end the game in a mercy rule.
WP: Byrd (9-2). LP: Dovas.
• Region 4-6A final — Archbishop McCarthy 4, Gulf Coast 2: Archbishop McCarthy is state tournament-bound for the fifth consecutive year after beating Gulf Coast at home.
With the game tied at 2, Mavericks first baseman Aaron Soto plated Brandon Vicens for the game-winning run.
The Mavericks scored a second run in the sixth inning on a double by shortstop Eddie Silva.
“[Soto] hits the ball so hard,” coach Rich Bielski said. “He smoked that one and put us back on top.”
The Mavericks trailed early in the game after Gulf Coast took a 1-0 lead in the top of the third inning. McCarthy quickly answered in the home half of the inning on a ground-ball out by Jonathan Quintana that plated Ryan Sinzenich.
Gulf Coast would again take a brief lead in the top of the fourth inning, but the Mavericks responded on an RBI single by catcher Michael Hernandez that scored pinch-runner Dylan Bautista.
“When we are down, there’s never a panic mode with these guys,” Bielski said. “We did it again [Friday night] on a real good team.”
The game started with a pitcher’s duel between McCarthy starter Brian Gonzalez and Gulf Coast starter Michael Zimmerman. Zimmerman was perfect through two innings, getting the first four batters he faced on strikeouts.
Gonzalez had five strikeouts while surrendering seven hits and two runs.
• Region 3-8A final — Jupiter 8, Flanagan 1: The visiting Warriors went deep twice in the top of the first inning and, just like that, Flanagan’s season was all but over.
The Falcons (20-6) got a solo homer from Daniel Oliveri in the bottom of the second yet could come no closer as Jupiter (23-4) opened things up in the latter innings to advance to the state final in Fort Myers.
“Three runs was too much there,” Flanagan coach Ray Evans said.
Flanagan starter Chris Rodriguez didn’t last long as he was chased after the Warriors took a 3-0 lead with two outs in the first.
Down 3-1, the Falcons were still in the game, but an infield error with two outs in the fourth led to two more runs, and that was that.
“We got out of the innings, we’re down 3-1 but couldn’t get outs when the bases were loaded,” Evans lamented.
WP: Kyle Keatts (4-2). LP: Chris Rodriguez (1-3).
• Region 4-5A final — Estero 3, American Heritage 2: After running through the regional opponents like a buzzsaw, American Heritage’s offense didn’t have an answer for Estero left-hander Zeke Pietryk.
The junior, despite scant run support, held Heritage’s potent lineup (20 hits in the previous two games, including 12 for extra bases) to three hits to edge the Patriots in the Region 4-5A final at American Heritage.
While the loss denied the heavily favored Patriots (25-3) a shot at a third consecutive state title, the Wildcats (20-9) are making their deepest playoff run in school history, avenging a 1-0 loss to Heritage a year ago.
Trailing 3-1 in the bottom of the seventh, Heritage shortstop CJ Chatham made it a one-run game with a solo home run; he had two of Heritage’s three hits for the game.
But Pietryk (7-2) shut down the Patriots with a groundout and two strikeouts for the complete game.
WP: Pietryk (7-2). LP: Beck (6-1).