LAND O' LAKES - Calvin Baisley seemed baffled by Land O' Lakes' performance in Tuesday's Class 5A-Region 2 semifinal loss to Newsome. He knew why the Gators lost 4-1 to end their season, but he had no clue what brought on a series of defensive miscues that led to all of the Wolves' runs being unearned.
"We've played such good defense all year, and we picked the wrong time to have our worst game," Baisley said, not pinning the loss on a single play, just the combination of four errors. "That's been our staple all year. ... That's baseball."
The game was shaping up as a pitchers' duel, with LOL (24-4) ace Trey Dahl matching Newsome's (17-8) surprise starter, Brian Skonicki, out for out until the third. That's when the defense began to unravel.
With two outs, Dahl walked Newsome's speedy leadoff man, Ethan Lovell, who stole second. Tyler McGuire followed with an infield hit, but Lovell made a wide turn at third and second baseman Luis Renovales fired high trying to throw him out, the game's first error. McGuire advanced to second, but Lovell stumbled, holding at third.
Dahl then snagged a sharp grounder by Kyle Copack on the mound, apparently saving a two-run single. But he threw high to first, everybody was safe, and two runs scored.
The Gators loaded the bases with no outs in the fifth, after a walk and back-to-back hits by Steve Alvarez and Curt Hilgenberg, then scoring on a sacrifice fly by David Vente. But the Wolves turned a double play to get out of the inning and preserve the lead.
"To have bases loaded and no outs and get only one run, that's kind of disappointing," Baisley said. "That had a chance to be a big inning."
Two more runs scored off LOL errors in the sixth, and Skonicki polished off his pitching gem by allowing just one hit to the Gators' final 10 batters, and only four hits overall. Dahl took his only loss of the year, finishing his final prep season 10-1.
Wildcats Make Most Of 1st Playoff Appearance
BRANDON - The effort was certainly there. The chances were there, too. Unfortunately, the last time the ball bounced Tuesday night, it didn't go Wesley Chapel's way.
The Wildcats' season came to a close Tuesday night with a 5-4 road loss in eight innings to state-ranked Brandon in a Class 5A regional quarterfinal. It was Wesley Chapel's first playoff berth in school history.
The Wildcats walked off Don Powell Field following the game to a standing ovation from their fans, who seemed to appreciate the fight their team displayed against arguably the hottest team in Hillsborough County. First-year Wesley Chapel coach Chuck Yingling echoed those sentiments.
"We played a good game," Yingling said. "For us, that was a very good game. We didn't give in."
Wesley Chapel certainly had its shining moments.
The Wildcats took a 3-1 lead into the bottom of the fifth thanks to RBI singles from Keith Esoff (2-for-2), George Clark (2-for-4) and Matt Ganci in a three-run fifth.
Center fielder Jeremy Johnson had a tremendous catch in the bottom of the seventh to force extra innings. Johnson, while falling down on the warning track in left-center, snagged Mike Smith's towering fly ball to end a bases-loaded threat.
And Ed Boyle came up with a big two-out RBI single to center in the eighth, once again giving Wesley Chapel the lead.
Those are things Wesley Chapel can take away from this loss as Yingling hopes to continue to improve the program.
"Defensively we were not bad, and we did hit the ball a little bit better," Yingling said. "We did some good things. It's just a learning transition for them learning to play ball at another level."
Hurricanes' Struggles Come To An End
WINTER HAVEN - That little thing in the back of one's mind, known widely as What If, can be one of the most cruel entities in sports.
For Bishop McLaughlin's baseball team, What If is likely running rampant through their collective minds following Tuesday night's 6-1 loss to Winter Haven All Saints' Academy in the Class 2A-Region 3 quarterfinals.
What if the Hurricanes had not committed three errors? What if the Saints were held to the two hits they collected in the first four innings? What if All Saints' center fielder Wes Freeman wasn't 6-foot-3 during Mike Gonzalez's rocket shot to the outfield in the sixth inning?
"Sadly enough, our last two weeks have not been what I consider Bishop McLaughlin baseball," Hurricanes coach Nick Rodriguez said. "We haven't made the plays we're supposed to make. Not even difficult errors, just poor baseball.
"First half of the season, we're doing what we're supposed to defensively and winning; second half of the season, I still think it was a successful second half of the season, but when you don't catch the ball it definitely makes it challenging."
Despite having those two hits in the first four innings, All Saints' (14-9) put six runs on the board. It earned its first two runs in the first inning on a two-run double.
Two Hurricanes (19-7) errors allowed two additional runs to come across the plate.
"You've got to mix in their errors, they were big," All Saints' coach John Carpenter said. "Their errors were big, and then we got a couple of timely hits. If you remember, in the first inning, they had us picked off over at third and threw the ball away. That could have changed the whole complexion of the ballgame."
Down 6-1 in the top of the sixth inning, Bishop McLaughlin, which started the season 14-1, was finally able to string together a couple of hits as Jeff Pope and Dan Cooper each singled.
During Gonzalez's at-bat, he hit a 1-0 pitch deep to center. The laser shot was aimed at the fence, but Freeman's speed and 6-3 frame got him to the ball as he stretched high above his head for the second out of the inning.
Had Freeman been 5-8, the ball probably would have hit the fence, likely driving in two runs. At that point, the scored would have been 6-3 with one out and Gonzalez likely standing on second base.