FORT MYERS -- Have fun and make it last all day.
North Broward Prep baseball coach Brian Campbell wasn’t referring to Wednesday’s state semifinal game when he gave his team that pregame message.
But the Eagles would spend part of the next six and a half hours dueling with two-time defending state champion Pensacola Catholic.
North Broward Prep spent the rest waiting out disruptive rain delays that hampered its momentum and played a large role in coming up short against the Crusaders 8-7 in eight innings in a Class 4A state semifinal game that was delayed five times overall for an estimated three and a half hours overall.
Pensacola Catholic third baseman Cody Henry hit a ball off the wall in left field to score Donovan Benoit and secure the walk-off victory in the eighth ending a spectacular playoff run for the Eagles (20-10) that included their second-ever trip to the state final four.
“Obviously the weather affected our pitching a little bit, but I’m not going to blame the weather,” Campbell said. “We had our chances, but obviously it was a bit disruptive.”
North Broward Prep took a 3-0 lead after three innings and later a 6-3 lead in the sixth inning, but each time weather halted play forcing the Eagles to make a pitching change upon resumption of play.
Each time, Pensacola Catholic rallied.
In the bottom of the sixth, the Crusaders (25-4) took the lead at 7-6 after a sacrifice fly by Henry.
But North Broward Prep staved off defeat in the top of the seventh when first baseman Edgar Badaraco crushed a ball way over the left field wall for a game-tying home run that would send the game to extra innings.
“I saw [Pensacola Catholic] changed the pitcher and I was thinking of trying to slow the game down,” Badaraco said. “That pitch was right in the zone and I turned on it.”
The Eagles put the potential go-ahead run in the eighth at third base with two outs, but was unable to bring it home when Chase Williams lined out to third.
After loading the bases in the bottom half, Henry came through again for Pensacola Catholic.
“Eddie’s home run obviously gave us a big rush of energy right there, but because of the delays there was never a real flow to the game,” Campbell said. “I was hoping after that we could string together a few runs and win the game, but it didn’t happen.”
Things might have been different without the weather disruptions judging by senior starting pitcher Alex Ernestine’s first three innings. Ernestine kept Pensacola Catholic without a hit while Kevin Thomas and Max Tannenbaum hit back-to-back RBI singles in the second to put the Eagles ahead early.
But after the first long delay of two hours and 19 minutes, Campbell needed to call upon Anthony Masiello out of the bullpen. That delay followed a couple of brief delays due to intermittent heavy rain. Pensacola Catholic scored once in the fourth and two more in the fifth to tie the game at 3.
In the sixth, North Broward Prep took a 6-3 lead on a bases loaded walk to Mack Nathanson and a clutch two-out, two-run single by Ernestine. Another delay followed forcing Campbell to bring in Tannenbaum to pitch.
“It’s a lot to ask a kid to sit around for 30 minutes then get back up and go and then have another hour-long break and then go back out and pitch,” Campbell said. “He was dealing and I would have loved to have had him out there another couple of innings. But we can’t control the rain.”
NBP 021 003 10 – 7 10 1
PC 000 124 01 – 8 13 1
WP: Gavin Wehby. LP: Max Tannenbaum.
Playing on his home court, Monarch’s Bruno Teixeira made the most of his last match, especially in the key moments.
The outside hitter had four kills in the deciding fifth set, and he teamed with Cardinal Gibbons’ Ryan Gunvaldsen on match point with a block at the net as the North squad prevailed over the South 3-2 (14-25, 25-13, 25-21, 24-26, 15-13) in Wednesday’s BCAA Senior All-Star boys’ volleyball match at Monarch.
“This was as exciting as a match could get,” North coach Adam Milewski of Taravella said. “We started slow, then it picked up.”
Teixeria earned the MVP honors for the North, and Cooper City outside hitter Dan Heintz won the award representing the South.
The highlight of the match occurred in the fourth set when the South team fought off two match points to eventually force the match to go the distance. The North took a 24-22 lead following a kill by Coral Glades’ Joe Aubrey off a set from Taravella’s Nick Gastesi.
But the South team fought back by scoring the next four points, starting with a kill by Nicholas Rusk of St. Thomas Aquinas. After two points off the North errors, Cypress Bay’s Kyle Dunn delivered the spike that sent the match into a fifth set.
“It was a surprise to me the way our guys fought back,” South coach Raymond Lockhart (McArthur) said. “They didn't give up [when faced with match point], but that’s why they’re all-stars.”