By the fourth inning, Benito Santiago was already having a monster game, and the Benjamin School Buccaneers weren’t about to let the catcher from Coral Springs Christian beat them.
So, he was given first base on an intentional walk to load the bases.
Cary Boniske made the visitors from Palm Beach Gardens pay, ripping an opposite-field single that took a vicious hop and sailed past the right fielder.
The Crusaders (21-7) scored three runs on the play (two unearned from two errors) for the difference in a 6-3 come-from-behind victory in Wednesday’s first round of the Class 3A FHSAA regional playoffs.
“We try to schedule tough schools on our schedule for when we’d face arms like [left-hander Bennett Sousa], and Cary stepped up and hit a missile,” said coach James Cleveland, whose team will face the Melbourne Central Catholic-Westminter Academy winner in the round of 16.
Santiago (2-for-2 with a double and a stolen base) capped the play with his third run of the game, making a winner out of battery-mate Touki Toussaint (7-2), who overcame a slow start to finish with 10 strikeouts.
The right-hander walked two batters in the first inning, then gave up a three-run home run by Benjamin’s Zach Zientarski for a 3-0 deficit.
But Toussaint settled down, giving up just one hit the rest of the way to finish with a two-hitter, retiring the last 11 batters in order.
The Crusaders, meanwhile pecked away at the lead, scoring once in the first when Santiago scored from third on a wild pitch. Then they added two in the third to tie the game at 3 with Bosnick and Joey DePalo hitting RBI singles.
The Bucs close their season at 14-12.
BS 3 0 0 0 0 0 0 — 3 2 3
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They had just defeated Stranahan to clinch the district championship.
“I read the quarterback’s eyes and made sure I was in the right position to grab it,” Middleton said. The Mavericks (10-4) held Stranahan scoreless in the second half after going into the half tied 6-6.
The Dragons (10-6) could not muster much offense, with their only score coming off an interception in the second quarter. Archbishop McCarthy’s quarterback Alexa Rivera caused havoc for Stranahan on offense, doing most of her damage on the ground with runs of 10 and 15 yards. She ended any bid of a comeback with a game-sealing touchdown run and point conversion with under two minutes left.
Rivera credited a good halftime team pep talk with the second-half offensive outburst where the Lady Mavericks scored 19 consecutive points, including a 10-yard touchdown pass to start the fourth quarter.
“I knew I had to come out and make good plays and help out in our rushing game. Our defense forced them to commit turnovers and held their quarterback in check for most of the game,” Rivera said.
Jennifer Lopez and Briana Valdez each had an interception before Middleton grabbed the third one for Archbishop.
Earlier this year both teams split the season series 1-1.
Stranahan made good efforts to offset the turnovers, but miscommunication on offense and dropped passes negated them any progress. They were still in it with six minutes to go despite the struggles but a fourth-down attempt on their own 45-yard line was stuffed by Archbishop, turning the ball over.
“They outplayed and out-executed us today. It’s a tough loss,” Stranahan coach Kerdian Willis said.
The Mavericks now move on to Saturday’s regional finals at 4 p.m.
Behind Abresha Long’s knack for the big plays on both sides of the ball, the Cougars built a three-touchdown first-half lead and held off Blanche Ely to capture the District 27 crown at Pompano Beach.
Long accounted for all the scoring for the Cougars (14-0), scoring on a 81-yard interception return, and throwing two TD passes to Kristen Gomes (17 and 81 yards).
“By the third game of the season,” Cougars coach Robert Carradine said, “they already knew how good they were, so they really don’t play with pressure. They’ve been playing with confidence all season. Our first real test was when we beat Monarch and we beat them easily (26-0). They’ve been enjoying the season.”
The Tigers, coming off a surprising victory over Monarch, were unable to contain Long, who stood out at quarterback and at free safety.
Blanche Ely (7-7) managed to come to within two touchdowns when Fatia Irving scored on a 21-yard run and added the extra-point on a pass to Raquasha Taylor early in the third quarter.
But the Cougar defense, behind strong pass rushes from Shedly Apollon and Maliaika Desrosiers, prevented any further threats from the Blanche Ely offense.
Meanwhile, the Cougars are setting their sights for the state crown as they’re riding on Long, who the Creek coach considers “the best flag football quarterback I’ve ever seen” as he describe his team’s progress throughout the season.
“At first the scores were low because all Ambresha did was run the ball,” Carradine said. “As the season went on, she threw more and more. The longer passes were getting better and now we throw 99 percent of the time.”
Archbishop McCarthy d. American Heritage 25-11, 20-25, 25-23, 25-19
The Mavericks took the district 10 title after defeating the Patriots in four sets Wednesday at Cooper City High School. Archbishop McCarthy will face the winner of St. Thomas Aquinas and Cardinal Gibbons.
Archbishop McCarthy (14-6) dominated the first set. Midway through the set, an 8-0 run put the Mavericks up 19-6.
The Patriots (7-4) rallied in the second set thanks to a strong start and an early lead.
McCarthy bounced back in a close third set. The teams were tied at 9, 17 and 22 before the Mavericks came away with the two-point win.
A 6-0 run put the Mavericks up 13-8 in the fourth set. McCarthy won the set, match and district title on a service point by Joe Figueroa.
Figueroa led the Mavericks with three aces. David Maniglia and Michael Moreiras each had nine kills for McCarthy and Luis Vazquez-Ugalde had 27 digs.