A first-ever trip to the state final four turned out to be a short visit for the Sagemont baseball team.
Perhaps suffering from a few “first-time nerves,” the Lions committed some early mistakes and never recovered as they fell to Lakeland Christian 5-1 in a Class 3A state semifinal Friday afternoon at CenturyLink Sports Complex.
“Lakeland Christian is very similar to us so we went into the game with the mindset that the team that makes the least mistakes will be the team that comes out on top and unfortunately that wasn’t us,” Sagemont head coach Armando Sierra Sr. said. “We kind of booted it around a bit early on and those mistakes really hurt us.”
Sierra Sr. referred specifically to the first two innings when the Vikings (23-5), who will go for their first state title on Saturday when they take on Fort Myers Canterbury, plated two unearned runs, one in each frame.
The first came when, after LC’s Jovanni Canegitta led off the game with a double to center off Sagemont starter Armando Sierra Jr,, Lions catcher Alex Portes threw one into left field on a steal attempt at third.
To make matters worse, Sagemont’s center fielder and best hitter Danny Moreno was injured on the play. Having suffered a left hamstring injury three weeks ago, he had been nursed back to health and was back in the lineup for the first time.
When Moreno broke on Canegitta’s shot, he immediately pulled up and needed to be helped from the field.
“Yeah, I knew it the second it happened and it just really stinks that it was over for me before it barely even started,” said Moreno. “I was ready to go and felt great. I just can’t believe something like that would happen on the first play.”
“I think we were averaging seven or eight runs a game with him in the lineup and all of a sudden we could barely score without him in the lineup,” said Sierra Sr. “That’s how much of a difference Danny made in the lineup.”
Lakeland Christian made it 2-0 in the second inning when, with two outs and runners on the corners, Sierra Jr. fumbled a bunt attempt off the bat of Cade Kontny and, having to then rush the throw, threw wild to first.
The Lions (13-11) scored their only run of the day off LC starter Cole Kramer in the bottom of the inning when Dylan Fernandez came through with an RBI single up the middle with runners on the corners and two outs.
But it’s what did not happen one batter earlier for the Lions that could’ve had a big impact on the outcome of the game.
Anthony Gutierrez launched an opposite field shot to the right field corner that easily cleared the fence for what would’ve been a three-run homer and 3-2 Sagemont lead. Only the wind pushed the ball foul by inches and Gutierrez struck out on the next pitch.
“I was excited when it left the bat,” said Gutierrez. “I started running, I thought it was gone and I guess the wind just barely pushed it foul.”
“I just had that very conversation with our athletic director outside before we came in to the interview room,” said Sierra Sr. “No doubt that that could’ve been a huge momentum swing in the game. Something like that happens and we go up 3-2, it easily could’ve changed everything, especially when we needed something positive to happen after the bad start.”
After the Vikings scored another single run in the third to go up 3-1, the Lions saw their last good chance to score go up in smoke in the last of the fourth.
A Louis Zayas one out single followed by Keshav Babu getting hit by a pitch put runners on first and second with one out. But Babu then got picked off first and Gutierrez struck out two pitches later to end the threat. Sagemont had just one base runner over the final three innings.