Gulliver and Calvary Christian each had walk-off victories to put their respective baseball teams within one game of the state final four.
There was more late-inning drama Tuesday afternoon.
After a three-hour duel, it was Gulliver that delivered the decisive blow that secured victory as the host Raiders won 6-5 again in walk-off fashion in the Region 4-4A final.
With runners on first and third and two outs, Gulliver second baseman Oscar Marchena hit a high chopper between first and second that bounced into right field to drive in the winning run and send the Raiders to state for the first time since 2010.
Never miss a local story.
“This feels amazing,” Marchena said. “Once I saw the ball get through I was just so happy because I could help my team get to state.”
Gulliver (23-6) will play Fort Myers Bishop Verot on Monday in a Class 4A state semifinal at JetBlue Park in Fort Myers.
“Oscar has done such a good job this year hitting in the No. 9 spot because I can turn the lineup over with him there and the top of the order right after,” Gulliver coach Javy Rodriguez said.
Calvary Christian (23-7), which made its first appearance in the regional finals, ran into trouble in the seventh when it committed two of its three errors and allowed the eventual winning run to reach third base.
Sophomore third baseman Raymond Gil reached on a fielding error. Eagles pitcher Tommy Taborda tried to pick off pinch runner Tyler Grant at first but his errant throw went into right field and allowed Grant to advance to third and set up Marchena’s heroics two batters later.
“We won as a team and we lost as a team and we praised the Lord as we did it,” Calvary Christian pitcher Andrew Gottfried said. “None of us are happy about this result, but we are still a team and we’re going to stay together.”
Gulliver’s typically shut-down pitching staff struggled to hold the lead, however, as the Raiders used four pitchers. Reliever Robert Touron gave up the tying run when he hit Taborda with a pitch with the bases loaded in the top of the sixth. But Touron settled down and worked his way out of the jam, and later threw a perfect seventh inning to set up the victory.
“All year we’ve been doing it with pitching,” Rodriguez said. “Today we had to use four pitchers which we have depth there. But we’re excited to have that walk-off. I would love to have a blowout win for a change, but it’s exciting.”
Calvary Christian rallied from a 3-0 deficit early in the game by scoring four in the top of the fourth inning. Gulliver took that early lead on a bases-clearing double by Gil in the bottom of the third.
After hits by Max Rozenblum and Winn Allen to start the fourth, Brett Lawson drove in the first Calvary Christian run. After an RBI ground out by Josh Lane, Lawson scored on a wild pitch by Gulliver starter Davis Brown. Noah Yager put the Eagles ahead 4-3 on an RBI single on the next at-bat.
The lead was short-lived, however, as following an RBI single by Justin Fernandez, Gulliver outfielder Gio Soto blasted a two-run home run to right field to give the Raiders a 5-4 lead.
“It’s a dream come true, but we set a goal on this team from the beginning and now it’s time to get it done,” Soto said. “I was just trying to put a good swing on it. I wasn’t even thinking home run.”
CC 0 0 0 4 0 1 0 — 5 9 3
GP 0 0 3 2 0 0 1 — 6 10 0
WP: Rob Touron (3-3). LP: Tommy Taborda (6-3).GP 23-6.
▪ Region 3-8A final — Lake Worth Park Vista 4, Douglas 2: For the second year in a row Park Vista disrupted Stoneman Douglas' plans on representing their region in the state baseball championship tournament in Fort Myers.
The Cobras, ranked fourth in the nation by MaxPreps, defeated the Eagles in Douglas' home park.
“It’s absolutely gut-wrenching,” Eagles coach Todd Fitz-Gerald said. “We fought, we battled and we left it all on the field. These kids can hold their heads high and be proud of what they accomplished.
Cobras starting pitcher Austin Smith, who figures to be drafted prominently in next month's player draft, tossed a complete game and struck out five in the victory. He also had a bases clearing double in the first inning to give the visitors a quick 2-0 lead that they never relinquished.
“That was a huge hit by Austin right there, that shows what he is made of,” Fitz-Gerald said. “We weren't afraid of him at the plate and he has a big hit there to blow the game open."
Fitz-Gerald said that he liked the way his team battled against such a great pitcher.
“He knew he had his hands full with us today,” Fitz-Gerald said. “We will learn from this, we will grow from this and the sun will shine again tomorrow.”
The Eagles were led by a pair of University of Miami commits. Starting pitcher Jesus Luzardo went the distance and struck out seven. He retired 17 of the final 18 batters he faced.
Meanwhile, Colton Welker hit a home run in the third inning to try to revive the Eagles offense. He had two hits in the day.
“We had a scouting report that he liked to throw fastballs to the middle of the order and get real aggressive,” Welker said. “He threw one down the middle of the plate, I planted my foot and crushed it as hard as I could.”