Palmetto’s baseball team has overcome deficits several times this season.
So why not one more?
Eddy Arteaga and Nick Deegan each drove in runs in the first inning Tuesday afternoon, and ace Matthew Turner did the rest, striking out 10 as he led the Panthers to a 3-1 win over Coral Gables in the Region 4-9A final Tuesday afternoon at Coral Reef Park.
Palmetto (22-6) secured its first trip to the state final four since 2007 and will take on either Orange City University or Winter Garden West Orange on June 2 at 4 p.m. in a Class 9A semifinal at Century Link Sports Complex in Fort Myers.
“We knew one run wasn’t going to be enough, so we just told our guys just go out there and score and we’ll be fine,” Palmetto coach Danny Smith said. “Turner was lights out [Tuesday].”
The Panthers have never won a state title, and this will be their second appearance at state.
Turner, a lanky 6-5, 180-pound lefty, has been a huge factor in Palmetto’s success as he improved to 9-1 with 81 strikeouts and a 1.77 ERA. Turner allowed only three hits.
“It took everything I had,” Turner said. “I know when I pitch I give it everything and my teammates do the same.”
Coral Gables (13-14), which was making its first regional final appearance since 1995, struck first on a couple of hits and scored on an RBI single by sophomore catcher Gerardo Rodriguez.
But the Cavaliers couldn’t cash in further after leaving two runners in scoring position.
Turner would only yield one more hit for the remaining six innings.
“We had a chance early in the game, and we knew we had to get something because we know what a competitor Turner is,” Gables coach Phil Wisser said. “We knew being preseason No. 1 in the county how good [Palmetto] was, and they were really a complete team.”
Palmetto, which rallied in its wins against Columbus and South Dade in the earlier regional rounds, responded quickly when Arteaga singled to tie the score, and Deegan drove in a second run on an RBI ground out.
After both Turner and Gables ace John Kenney each dueled into the sixth, Palmetto added an insurance run when Deegan singled to right field to score Aramis Toledo, who was pinch running for Arteaga after he led the inning off with a double.
“It was important to get back in front quickly and get that momentum back,” Arteaga said. “Turner kept hitting his spots and kept the counts low.”
▪ Region 4-5A final — Pompano Beach 9, Monsignor Pace 0: After spending the entire season quietly under the radar racking up win after win, the Pompano Beach exploded on to the scene with a bevy of noise as the Golden Tornadoes trotted onto the field at Monsignor Pace High School routed the Spartans, last year’s state runner-up.
And with that, the Golden Tornadoes, a team competing in the regional playoffs for only the fifth time in program history, punched their first trip to the state final four. Pompano will take on defending state champion Jacksonville Bolles in a Class 5A state semifinal on May 31 at 10 a.m. or 1 p.m. at Centurylink Sports Complex in Fort Myers.
“We certainly came here to win the ballgame tonight but to come in here and win this convincingly against a great team like Pace on their field is really amazing and a credit to our kids,” said Pompano Beach coach Joe Giummule. “They [Pace] came up to our place last year and did this to us on our field [Pace beat Pompano 9-3 in last year’s region final at Pompano] so maybe it was just our turn tonight.”
It was Pompano’s turn thanks mainly to two big time performers, Chase Costello and pitcher Trevor Kniskern as both showed why they were Miami Herald First Team All Broward County selections.
Costello broke a scoreless tie in the top of the fifth with a towering three-run homer over the left center field fence and that would be all the runs Kniskern would need as he was brilliant, pitching a complete game, two hit shutout against one of the best offensive teams in South Florida. It was the first time Pace had been shut out all year.
“I knew how a hitting team Pace was but it was just a matter of getting ahead in the count all night and locating my pitches,” said Kniskern, only a junior but who has already committed to Pepperdine. “I was just happy to come out tonight and do this for our seniors. They deserved it and we’re so excited about going to state for the first time in program history.”
After Costello’s homer, Pompano put the game away with four more runs in the sixth, thanks mainly to a two-out, bases loaded dropped fly ball in left field that allowed three runs to score.
- BILL DALEY
St. Thomas Aquinas announced the hiring of former Cypress Bay coach Oliver Berens as its new girls’ basketball coach.
Berens led the Lightning to an 18-8 record and a BCAA Big 8 tournament appearance last season in his lone season at Cypress Bay. Prior to that, Berens was an assistant coach at national powerhouse Miami Country Day for eight years.