St. Thomas Aquinas had heard a lot about Royal Palm Beach ace pitcher Triston McKenzie before Tuesday’s Region 4-7A final.
And two hours after they took the field, the Raiders got to see firsthand why McKenzie is a Vanderbilt commit along with being projected to be a first- or second-round pick in the upcoming MLB draft.
That after McKenzie, who brought a 0.64 season long ERA into the game with an eye-popping 40 strikeouts in 20 innings of postseason work, took a no-hitter into the last inning before settling for a three-hit shutout, striking out 10 to lead Royal Palm Beach to a 4-0 win over the No. 1 state-ranked and nationally-ranked Raiders at Royal Palm Beach High School.
The win gave the Wildcats (19-12) their second trip to the state final four and first since 2000.
“Give them a lot of credit, they did the little things right [Tuedsay], got their pitcher an early lead and that really put us in a hole,” Aquinas coach Troy Cameron said. “We were just trying to get the bat on the ball against [McKenzie] and try to give ourselves some chances but that kid up on the mound was pretty good out there.”
After McKenzie retired 12 consecutive batters from the third through the first out in the seventh, striking out seven of the 12, the Raiders (22-5) finally reached him when Nick Marcmese broke up the no-hitter with a base hit up the middle. When Anthony Mulrine and Carter White followed with base hits to left, they had the bases loaded with only one out and some life. Kenny Hornig then lofted a soft liner that looked like it would get over the second baseman’s head. But Zach Retzler made a great defensive play to pull the ball in. Daniel Lowry then popped out to first to end the game.
“He’s a good pitcher, you can’t too anything but tip your hat to him,” Marcmese said. “We were just trying to do anything we could to get the ball in play but it’s tough when you got a kid throwing mid-90s. We didn’t come out flat, we came out with enthusiasm and fire, but he [McKenzie] just threw a great game.”
The Wildcats (19-12) got McKenzie all the runs he would need when they hit Aquinas starter Johnny Leone for two runs in the first inning, matching their total offensive output in their first two regional wins, both 1-0 victories.
RPB added two runs in the fourth to make it 4-0, and it must have felt like 14-0 to the Raiders the way McKenzie was dominating.
“I’m glad my kids didn’t give up and fought to the end but it’s tough to win a game when you get your first hit in the seventh inning,” Cameron said.
STA – 000 000 0 – 0 3 0
RPB – 200 200 x – 4 5 1
WP: Triston McKenzie LP: Johnny Leone