Douglas, one of the most decorated baseball programs in South Florida without a state championship, moved a step closer to claiming its first.
Brandon Kaminer started and Brady Norris finished on the mound Friday as Douglas outlasted Winter Garden West Orange 3-2 in a Class 9A state semifinal at JetBlue Park.
“Just a great game all the way around,” Douglas coach Todd Fitz-Gerald said. “We pride ourselves on playing great defense and, obviously, that showed [Friday].”
The Eagles (26-2), ranked No. 3 nationally by MaxPreps, advanced to their first state title game and will play defending state champion Miami Columbus Saturday at 4:05 p.m.
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Douglas, which has won 20 regional playoff games in its history, will try to join Flanagan, Nova, Cypress Bay and Fort Lauderdale as the only Broward County public schools to win a state baseball title.
It will be the first meeting in a state final between teams from Broward and Miami-Dade counties since Flanagan beat American in 2010.
Douglas has won six of its past seven games by a one-run margin.
“We know how to win those close ones,” Fitz-Gerald said. “[They’re] just resilient. The mind-set they have they work so hard together. The chemistry is so good on our team. Our guys are so close and have been together for a long time, and the experience that we have is unquestionable and they’re battle-tested.”
Douglas shortstop and University of Miami signee Colton Welker had a hand in the first two runs the Eagles scored off West Orange ace Tyler Baum, a University of North Carolina signee who was 8-0 entering the game.
Welker went 2 for 3 with a first-inning single that scored Luis Acevedo and scored on a single by John McKenna to break up a 1-1 tie in the top of the fourth after he belted a double down the left-field line.
The Eagles had a brief scare in the sixth when Welker collapsed after recording the final out of the inning. Welker got up slowly and walked off the field with the help of Douglas trainers.
Welker said after the game it was “just cramps” and that he felt fine.
Kaminer, another UM signee, threw 90 pitches and went 5 2/3 innings, allowing only two runs on five hits. He walked three and struck out four.
“Brandon’s done a great job for us this year,” Fitz-Gerald said. “You’ve got to get to him early, and when [West Orange] got that run early, that was the lone characteristic of him, he usually goes out and throws up zeroes. Just made one mistake early but settled in nice after that and he’s a gamer.”
Kaminer got his way out of a jam in the fifth with a great pickoff move to second to catch Warriors center fielder Deandre Shelton off the bag. Shelton had led off the inning with a double.
Fitz-Gerald removed Kaminer with two outs in the bottom of the sixth after West Orange (27-3) cut the lead to 3-2 on a double by shortstop Chris Seize.
Norris needed only seven pitches to close out the Warriors, who entered the game ranked No. 6 by USA Today, and pick up his fifth save of the season. He induced a ground ball for a fielder’s choice to end the sixth. He then needed five pitches to retire West Orange in order in the seventh and end the game.
“Brady’s been our go-to guy on the back end of the bullpen all year long,” Fitz-Gerald said. “He has a devastating changeup and just a strike-thrower. He doesn’t walk any guys and that’s what we needed when he went in there.”
DOUG 100 101 0 – 3 5 0
WO 100 001 0 – 2 5 1
WP: Brandon Kaminer (12-0). LP: Tyler Baum (8-1). SV: Brady Norris (5).