The only problem with a magical, Cinderella journey is that if you stumble and fall, it’s hard and it hurts.
Such was the case on Friday afternoon for the Miami Springs baseball team.
Making the program’s first state final four appearance in its 55 year history during a season that saw the team win 27 of its 28 games reaching a No. 8 national ranking in Baseball America, it all went for naught as the Golden Hawks fell to Tampa Jesuit 7-3 in a Class 6A state semifinal at CenturyLink Sports Complex.
Jesuit (26-5), boasting its own national ranking (No. 47, Max Preps), will look for the program’s fifth state title on Saturday at 4 p.m. against Dunedin.
“Tough game. We knew we were playing a very good team today and would have to be at our best,” said Springs head coach David Fanshawe. “We had a few chances early to maybe grab the lead but it didn’t work out and then we fell behind and were forced to battle from behind.”
Fanshawe referred to Springs’ third inning when the Golden Hawks had runners on second and third with only one out and a chance to grab the lead and then a disastrous fourth when Tigers took control of the game.
With the Jesuit infield playing back in the third, Anthony Nunez hit a hard one-hopper to deep shortstop, but Springs catcher Nick Fuentes held up at third and didn’t go home. Lazaro Hernandez then flew out to right ending the inning.
“Believe it or not, I thought that was a pretty big moment in the game,” said Jesuit head coach Miguel Menendez. “Getting a lead is important for us and even though it wasn’t that late, it would’ve put us behind in the game and we’re a better team when we’re out in front.”
“Tricky moment,” said Fanshawe. “A tough read for Nick as the ball was hit sharply. If he had been aggressive, there might’ve been a shot he could have gotten tossed out at home so it was just a bang bang thing that didn’t work out for us.”
Jesuit then seized control of the game in the top of the fourth when Tigers hitters, got to Springs starter Erick Argote Jr. the second time through the lineup.
A B.J. Graham leadoff double got things started for Jesuit and ballooned from there. Argote Jr. was an out away from getting out of the inning only giving up one run before three consecutive two-out RBI hits by Ethan Valdez, Bradke Lohry and Nick Rodriguez opened the game up.
“I was pretty calm at the start,” said Argote Jr. “Even though I understand we’ve never been to states before, I just tried to treat it like any another baseball game. They just beat me. A couple things really didn’t go our way and they just beat me.”
“They’re a good team, they have good hitters and good hitters make adjustments,” said Fanshawe. “They saw what he had, adjusted well the second time around and made us pay.”
Jesuit looked like it might mercy rule Springs when the Tigers added two more run in the fifth and had two runners on with nobody out. But Jesus Gonzalez, who relieved Argote in the fourth, settled down and retired the side.
Springs (27-2) then gave itself a fighting chance when it reached Jesuit starter and Wake Forest commit Camden Minacci in the bottom of the inning.
A bases-loaded RBI single by Nunez scored one, an RBI fielder’s choice by Carlos Rey scored another and a third came home on a throwing error that spelled the end for Minacci.
The Hawks could’ve really made things interesting when they loaded the bases with two outs in the sixth. A Nunez double in the gap could’ve made it a one run game but he fouled out to third base to end the inning and the Hawks went down in order in the seventh.
“I was proud of the kids for battling back and we have nothing to hang our heads about,” Fanshawe said. “It was a historic year for this program and these kids made a lot of memories for a lot of people. We’ll be back and I’m not just saying that for the sake of saying it. We only have a few seniors and we’ve put Miami Springs baseball back on the map and we intend to keep this thing going.”