Once again, Columbus pitcher Chris Coipel only gave up one hit.
And once again, one run is all he needed from his teammates.
For the second consecutive game, Coipel threw a one-hitter against one of the state’s best teams in what resulted in a 1-0 victory for the Explorers.
On Tuesday night, Coipel’s latest work of art on the mound came against Pembroke Pines Flanagan in the Region 4-8A final and sent Columbus to the state semifinals for the first time in three seasons.
“I can’t even explain this run right now because everything is working right now,” said Coipel, an FIU signee who followed up a one-hitter in a 1-0 victory over South Dade last week in the regional semifinal round. “I just have to thank God because it’s all clicking on this team right now.”
Columbus (25-5) won its 13th consecutive game and will play nationally-ranked Lake Worth Park Vista on May 20 at JetBlue Park in Fort Myers in a Class 8A state semifinal. The Explorers are chasing their second state title in school history and what would be their first since 2003.
“I told these guys, I’ve been up there four times with this trip,” Columbus coach Joe Weber said. “We won the first time and lost in the final the last two times, and losing is not a good feeling. We still have work to do because we will see a quality team up there.”
Coipel, who improved to 12-1 for the season, struck out five and only gave up a single in the third inning.
Columbus broke through for the lone run in the game in the fourth when left fielder Alain Santana hit a double that followed a single by third baseman Jackie Urbaez, who finished with two hits.
Santana, who has been clutch throughout the latter part of the season, also picked up the pitching victories in the GMAC and district championship games.
That was all the offense Columbus could muster against Flanagan’s own ace Gentry Fortuno, who also struck out five. The loss ended the career of Fortuno, who won went 35-5 during his time pitching for the Falcons (21-6).
Flanagan was eliminated in the regional finals for the third consecutive season and fourth time in the past five seasons – a stretch that began after winning a state title in 2010.
“Gentry has been lights out his whole career, but it came down to one play,” Flanagan coach Ray Evans said. “Columbus just shut us down. We got some good swings in the final inning, but right at people. It’s sad for Gentry to see his career end the way it did because I would have loved for him to get that one chance to pitch at state.”
FL 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 – 0 1 0
COL 0 0 0 10 0 X – 1 4 0
WP: Chris Coipel (12-1). LP: Gentry Fortuno (8-4).
▪ Region 4-3A final — Westminster Christian 6, Palm Beach Gardens Benjamin 3: He shares a name with a famous hockey star, but baseball is Jagr Enriquez’s game, and the Warriors (21-7-1) are happy he’s on their side because his effort helped lift the program to state for the first time since 2011.
Enriquez, a 5-foot-11 senior right-hander with a submarine delivery, entered the game with a one-run lead, one out and runners on second and third.
He not only got out of that jam with Westminster’s 4-3 lead intact – he got a strikeout and a fly out to escape – but he ended up pitching 2 2/3 innings of scoreless ball. He struck out the side in the sixth and got a 1-2-3 seventh inning to improve to 4-1.
“Jagr’s been clutch since his freshman year, but he keeps getting better,” Warriors catcher Jakob Zarello said of Enriquez, who allowed just one hit and one hit by pitch. “His arm angle gets lower every year, and it’s not easy for hitters to adjust.
“He comes from almost touching the ground to straight over the plate, and as soon as batters start to swing, it dips. No one can touch it.”
No one could put a glove on Zarrello’s high fly ball in the third inning, either. His three-run homer landed 50 feet behind the short porch in right field, tying the score 3-3.
Benjamin had scored three runs in the top of third inning, a stunning strike considering it had been nearly three weeks since Westminster had trailed in a game.
But the Warriors, who won their previous four games by a combined score of 43-0, battled back and took the lead on a two-out double by sophomore Clinton Gulley.
Senior Julian Infante, a Vanderbilt recruit, stroked a two-strike, two-out single in the sixth to pad Westminster’s lead, and Enriquez did the rest, flinging his glove high in the air after ending the game with his fifth strikeout of the afternoon.
Ryan Terry, Westminster’s ace pitcher who lasted 4 1/3 innings before giving way to Enriquez, was one of the first to jump on the dog pile.
“It kind of stunk when I gave up that three spot, but I knew I had my best friend Jagr Enriquez behind me,” said Terry, a UCF recruit. “I knew he was going to take it home for us.”
BEN 0 0 3 0 0 0 0 — 3 7 0
WC 0 0 3 1 0 2 X — 6 9 0
WP: Ryan Terry. S: Jagr Enriquez. WC 22-7-1.
IF YOU GO
What: The state baseball championships.
When: Wednesday through May 21.
Where: JetBlue Park, 11500 Fenway South Drive, Fort Myers.
Admission: $9 per day; Parking: $10 for cars, $50 for fan buses.
Defending state champions – Class 8A: Homestead South Dade; 7A: Hialeah American; 6A: Hialeah Gardens Mater Academy; 5A: Tampa Jesuit; 4A: Ocala Trinity Catholic; 3A: Tallahassee North Florida Christian; 2A: Brito Miami Private; 1A: Williston.
Wednesday’s schedule – Class 2A semifinals: Lecanto Seven Rivers Christian vs. Tampa Bayshore Christian, 10 a.m.; Brito vs. Vero Beach Master’s Academy, 1; Class 1A semifinals: Blountstown vs. Bratt Northview, 4; Jasper Hamilton County vs. Williston, 7
Thursday’s schedule – Class 2A final: 4:05; Class 1A final: 7:35.
Friday’s schedule – Class 5A semifinals: Southwest Ranches Archbishop McCarthy vs. Tampa Robinson, 10 a.m.; Inverness Citrus vs. Lynn Haven Mosley, 1; Class 6A semifinals: Ocala Forest vs. St. Johns Bartram Trail, 4; Mater Academy vs. Venice, 7.
Saturday’s schedule – Class 5A final: 4:05; Class 6A final: 7:35.
Monday’s schedule – Class 3A semifinals: Tallahassee North Florida Christian vs. Spring Hill Bishop McLaughlin, 10 a.m.; Westminster Christian vs. Fort Myers Canterbury, 1; Class 4A semifinals: Gulliver vs. Fort Myers Bishop Verot, 4; Jacksonville Trinity Christian vs. Bushnell South Sumter, 7.
Next Tuesday’s schedule – Class 3A final: 4:05; Class 4A final: 7:35.
Next Wednesday’s schedule – Class 7A semifinals: Plant City Durant vs. Oviedo, 10 a.m.; Royal Palm Beach vs. Sarasota-Naples Gulf Coast winner, 1; Class 8A semifinals: Columbus vs. Lake Worth Park Vista, 4; Orange City University vs. Orlando Timber Creek, 7.
Next Thursday’s schedule – Class 7A final: 4:05; Class 8A final: 7:35.