FORT MYERS -- One timely hit or one costly error often decides a baseball game.
And on Wednesday morning, both such plays — in succession — cost Coral Springs Christian its season in a 1-0 loss to Tallahassee North Florida Christian in a Class 3A state semifinal at JetBlue Park.
“Obviously, we made one mistake and it’s hard to expect them to be absolutely perfect,” Coral Springs Christian coach Matt Cleveland said. “When they needed that hit, they got it. When we needed that big two-out hit, we never got it and that’s sometimes the difference in games like this.”
Moments after a liner to center field by North Florida Christian left fielder J.D. Huggins was misplayed by Crusaders center fielder Pemron Burrows, Huggins moved into scoring position at second with two outs in the bottom of the second.
NFC right fielder Ethan Michaelis hit another single that drove in the game’s lone run.
The unearned run was the only blemish in an otherwise solid pitching performance by Eric Hepple, who gave up only four hits and suffered his first loss of the season.
Coral Springs Christian (23-8), nationally ranked to start the season, was never able to get the equalizer despite putting a runner in scoring position in the third and fifth innings.
NFC pitcher and Florida State University commit Carson Sands pitched a complete game, scattering six hits.
“I thought we hit the ball well,” Cleveland said. “But their guy [Sands] was in the zone and didn’t give us anything, but it was just the game of baseball. Sometimes the hits don’t fall.”
Coral Springs Christian’s best chance came in the top of the fifth when Chris Bec led off the inning with a single and, two batters later, shortstop James Buckley followed with a bloop single. The runners moved over on a groundout, setting up Burrows against Sands. Although he worked a full count, Sands got Burrows looking to end the inning.
“There were at least four lineouts where an inch or two different and it’s a whole different ball game,” Cleveland said. “I thought we didn’t give more than two or three at-bats all day. [Burrows] has had great at-bats like those all season. But Sands got him with a perfect pitch.”
Buckley reached third with two outs in the third, but Sands struck out Coral Springs Christian star Touki Toussaint to end the inning.
The Crusaders nearly scored first in the first inning when Hepple hit a ball off the left-field wall with catcher Benito Santiago at first. Santiago raced around third but was thrown out at the plate.
“The only thing that matters is who wins the last game,” Cleveland said. “I just wanted my kids to have the opportunity to pile on one more time.”
CSC 000 000 0 – 0 6 1
NFC 010 000 x – 1 4 0
WP: Carson Sands (11-1). LP: Eric Hepple (6-1).