Nova was facing the defending state champions on their field, trailing by two runs with just three outs left in its season.
The Titans didn’t flinch.
Nova, a district runner-up, stunned American with five runs in the top of the seventh to knock the Patriots out of the postseason with a 6-3 victory.
With the win, Nova (17-9) advances to next week’s Region 4-7A semifinals where it will get another shot at district rival St. Thomas Aquinas. American ends its season 16-10.
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“It’s the end of the year, so the kids are always going to give the effort until that 21st out,’’ longtime Nova coach Pet McQuaid said.
“We were pretty fortunate to have some things fall our way in the last inning that helped us and hurt them. That’s baseball. Sometimes you’re on the opposite end of that but today we were were on the right end.”
Even though they only had two hits in the inning, the Titans — thanks to two walks, a hit batsmen, an error and a balk — sent 10 batters to the plate to do the damage they needed.
With a first inning James Spatafora solo home run the only offense all day off American starter Danger Guevarra, the Titans got a leadoff hit from Austin Davis to start the seventh. When Guevarra walked Marcos Villanueva to put two on with no outs, American head coach Ricky Gutierrez went out and pulled his ace.
“He was at 108 [pitches] and I’ll never put a kid’s welfare ahead of a high school baseball game,” Gutierrez said. “Unfortunately our bullpen has been up and down all year and didn’t get it done today.”
Nova’s Jose Oliva was the first batter reliever Tyler Morales faced and he greeted him with an RBI double down the left field line cutting the deficit to one before the tying run came home on a wild pitch.
After a strike out, Morales hit Javier Lopez loading the bases before walking pinch hitter Richard Silva to give Nova the lead.
“The thing is about our team is that we can get really cold really fast and really hot really fast so we always feel like we’re in the game,” Spatafora said. “We struggled with the bats today but we found a way to make it happen in that last inning and keep our season going.”
Said Gutierrez: “It’s been like that all year for us and we’ve lost a lot of games like that. When you have your chances, you have to put a team away and we didn’t do that. Give Nova credit, they hung in there and then found a way to get it done in that last inning and we didn’t. They move on and we don’t. It’s as simple as that.”
▪ Nova 6, American 3
Nova: 100-000-5 -- -- 6-3-1
Amer: 021-000-0 -- -- 3-8-1
WP: Javier Lopez; LP: Tyler Morales. Nova 17-9, Amer 16-10.
▪ St. Thomas Aquinas 10, Westland Hialeah 0: Sophomore Johnny Leone shut down the visiting Wildcats by holding them to three hits over five scoreless innings. Leone, who entered the game with an 0.73 ERA, struck out six and walked three.
The Raiders got on the board with three runs in the third. Carter White's two-run double to left highlighted the inning. Nick Marchese's sacrifice fly to center opened the scoring. Marchese later ended the game in the fifth with an RBI double, scoring Alex Dickinson, for the tenth run.
The Raiders (21-4) will play host to district rival Nova on Tuesday; Aquinas has won all three previous meetings against the Titans this season. Westland Hialeah finishes its season 14-11.
▪ West Broward 9, Miami High 0: Michael Schappell turned in a complete game shutout as the hard-throwing senior allowed two hits and struck out 10 to help avenge last week’s loss to Flanagan in the district final.
Schappell mowed through the Miami High lineup, retiring the side five different times. He didn’t give up his second hit until there were two outs left.
“This win is definitely a confidence booster coming off that loss,” Schappell said. “We really wanted to come out strong in the first inning and it was a great team win.”
The Bobcats wasted little time getting their offense going. Steven Revilla led off with a triple off the wall before scoring on a ground out. In the second, West Broward added five more runs to give Schappell a comfortable cushion.
▪ Taravella 6, Cooper City 2: A two-out rally in the top of the fourth proved to be the difference as visiting Taravella rallied to knock off the Cowboys.
The Trojans (16-9) travel to Douglas Tuesday in a rematch of last week’s district championship.
The Cowboys (16-9), looking for their first regional win since they went to state in 2002, led 2-1 after three innings and retired the first two Trojan batters in the fourth but a Manny Pataleon base hit followed by a Santiago Cardona walk got the rally going.
Zach Costanzo then drilled a base hit to center and a misplay brought both runners home. Costanzo scored on a Andrew Lobosky base hit to complete the rally. Blake Bowman entered the game in the third inning for the Trojans and gave up just one hit in three innings of work to record the win.
Taravella’s Henry Matias enjoyed a big night as he led the game off with a solo home run to right center and added an RBI single in the sixth.
▪ Mater Academy 5, Goleman 2: Danny Reyes broke a 2-2 tie in the fifth with a solo home run and catcher Joey Jimenez hit one of his own the next inning to provide insurance as the reigning Class 6A state champion Lions (16-9) advanced to the regional semifinals for the third consecutive season.
Right-handed pitcher Kevin Fuentes had another solid outing for Mater, going six innings and striking out eight.
Mater Academy faces district rival Doral Academy in the next round Tuesday. Doral has defeated Mater in both meetings so far this season.
▪ American Heritage 7, Riviera Beach Suncoast 0: After missing the playoffs last year for the first time in 17 years, the Patriots (20-7) will play host to district rival Archbishiop McCarthy (23-5) next week after Thursday’s win.
The fourth-ranked Patriots hit three home runs including a two-run shot by senior David Villar in a four-run first inning. The USF signee has six homers and 29 RBI.
Freshman Julio Cortes blasted a two-run shot to make it 6-0 in the fourth before sophomore Joe Perez picked up his second RBI of the game with a solo bomb in the sixth. Sophomore Israel Cordero struck out six over five innings and gave up only two hits to pick up the win and improve to 3-1.
▪ Gulliver 3, Mater Lakes 1: Base stealing mistakes repeatedly cost the host Raiders scoring chances Thursday. But persistence on the base paths is something Gulliver coach Javy Rodriguez has always preached in his years coaching the Raiders.
It finally paid off in the sixth inning and it helped the Raiders break a 1-1 tie and eventually secure victory. Gulliver (21-6) will host either Key West or St. Brendan Tuesday.
Gulliver shortstop Javy Valdez reached on a dropped ball by Mater Lakes second baseman Edgar Perez. Valdez ran to second and reached the base safely forcing an errant throw from the outfield. The compounded mistake allowed Valdez to reach third and score two at-bats later when Gio Soto singled to right field. After a single by catcher Pedro Pages, Gulliver added another run on a sacrifice fly by third baseman Alex Erro.
“We’re going to be aggressive and that’s the style I grew up playing and the style I teach,” said Rodriguez, the former University of Miami standout and its most proficient all-time base stealer. “You can get in a baserunning slump just like hitting or fielding. You have to keep going and eventually it will go your way.”
Valdez’s play ironically followed second baseman Oscar Marchena getting caught stealing by Mater Lakes catcher Blake Brito, who threw out two base runners in the game. Mater Lakes left fielder Marcus Villalobos also threw out two Gulliver runners trying to extend hits into doubles.
But despite the mistakes, Gulliver ace Davis Brown kept Mater Lakes’ lineup at bay. Brown struck out nine and allowed only one run on five hits to improve to 6-0 for the season.
“The game plan was to use a lot of changeups and stay ahead,” Brown said. “I had to mix it up because I knew Mater Lakes was an aggressive hitting team.”
▪ Calvary Christian 2, Cardinal Newman 1 (9): Starting pitcher Andrew Gottfried knocked in the winning run with a two-out, run-scoring single to left center, lifting the host Eagles. Gottfried was 2-for-3 with two runs batted in and struck out nine batters in eight innings in the no-decision outing to lead the Eagles (22-6), who will face American Heritage-Delray on Tuesday.
▪ Palmer Trinity 6, SLAM Academy 3: With two outs in the second, the Falcons (21-4) manufactured five runs as three of the runs were unearned with two coming on an error and one on a walk.
Jose Garcia hit a two-run homer in the third to help keep the Titans (23-7) in it at 5-3.
Both Taylor Walker of Palmer and Jonathan Fernandez of SLAM entered the game with 7-0 pitching records. Walker pitched a complete game win and Fernandez was pulled in the second.
▪ Westminster Christian 10, Hialeah Educational 0: Sophomore Dylan Cloonan drove in a career-high five RBI to lead Westminster (19-7-1) in a game shortened to 5½ innings due to the mercy rule.
Cloonan, who bats eighth, hit a two-run double to center in the second and a three-run triple to right in the third to help put the Warriors on top 7-0 after three. Both hits came with two outs.
“Dylan’s a solid player for us,” Westminster coach Emil Castellanos said of Cloonan, a second-year starter. “He’s been in big games and come through with clutch hits.”
Pitcher Terry Ryan earned the win and is expected to start on Tuesday when Westminster hosts Palmer Trinity in a WALTER VILLA