The thrill of a last inning rally quickly turned to despair for the Cardinal Gibbons baseball team as the Chiefs suffered a heartbreaking 6-3 extra inning loss to Melbourne Central Catholic in the 5A state championship game on Thursday evening at CenturyLink Sports Complex.
Gibbons, looking for its second state title in program history having won it in 1987, trailed 3-1 and was down to its last three outs when the Chiefs rallied to tie it in the bottom of the seventh.
But MCC, which didn’t even win its own district coming in the back door as a district runnerup, rallied in the top of the eighth when Bryce Dalrymple ripped a bases-loaded, three-RBI double to the wall in left-center field.
Gibbons went down in order in the bottom of the inning and had to watch the Hustlers break in to the center-of-the-field dogpile instead of enjoying it themselves.
“In the sixth inning, I called them in and told them what I’ve been telling them all year, that we were going to win and we darn near did,” Gibbons head coach Jason Hamilton said. “A great rally in that last inning and you couldn’t have asked for anything more than to have your best hitter up at the plate with a chance to close it out. It just didn’t happen.”
Hamilton referred to Kevin Hirsch, the team’s best hitter who stepped up with the bases loaded and two outs in the seventh with a chance to win the state title for his team.
With MCC pitcher Shea Justin struggling to find the strike zone, a walk would have done the trick but Hirsch was aggressive at the plate, perhaps swinging at a pitch or two outside of the zone. He eventually flied out to center to end the inning and send the game to extras.
“I would imagine that’s one of the biggest spots of his life,” Hamilton said. “But I’ll tell you what, you have the leading home run guy in Broward County, the leading RBI guy in Broward County. That’s what you want. If I was up in that spot, I’d probably be a little aggressive too. You want to win the game for your team and that’s what Kevin wanted to do. It just didn’t work out.”
Hirsch would’ve never seen the plate if it hadn’t been for the heroics of freshman Brice Montiel a few minutes earlier.
After Kyle Kuramoto got hit by a pitch to lead off the inning, Mike Higgins had a one-out hit to right and both runners advanced on a wild pitch, Montiel came through when he slapped a base hit through the right side to score both runners.
“It was a little nerve wracking and maybe I was a little scared at first,” Montiel said, “but I just settled down and looked for a good pitch to hit and got one.”
After the game went scoreless for the first three innings, MCC opened scoring in the fourth when Zach Beolet doubled with two outs to score Jackson Taylor.
The Chiefs (23-8) quickly answered in the bottom of the inning when Trevor Kole led off with a triple to right center and tagged up and scored when Hirsch flied out to right.
The Hustlers, who won their second state title, the first coming in 2013, then took a 3-1 lead when they plated a pair of runs in the top of the sixth, an RBI triple down the right field line by Beolet being the big hit in the innings.
“It was exciting to have made it this far but yeah, it hurts right now to have come so close and not quite gotten there,” Hamilton said. “These kids have nothing to be ashamed of, they left everything out there on the field. As a coach, you never want to lose your last game but if there was a proper place to lose your last game it would probably be right here as a state runnerup.”