– Tampa Catholic’s Kyle Barber singled in the only run of the game and starter AJ Gonzalez and reliever Reeves Martin combined on a three-hit shutout as the Crusaders edged Lake Placid by a score of 1-0 in the Class 4A-Region 3 quarterfinals on Thursday night.
Tampa Catholic improved to 16-11 and plays Berkeley Prep in the regional semifinals, while Lake Placid ends the season at 15-10.
“It was a good game and sometimes you hit the ball at people and sometimes you don’t,” said Green Dragon veteran baseball coach Dan Coomes. “Tonight we hit it at people and we had several opportunities, but the ball didn’t fall in for us.
“It’s tough to end the season, but it was good to see a Lake Placid team play tough in the regionals and this means a lot to our kids and community.”
Tampa Catholic senior right-hander Gonzalez used a fastball and pinpoint accuracy to limit Lake Placid to three hits on the night.
Lake Placid senior Heath Harris was solid as well, keeping a potent Crusader lineup off-balance with a fastball and deceptive curveball.
Tampa Catholic got on the scoreboard in the top of the third inning as Dre Leal lined a leadoff single, Paulie Russo singled and George Romero was hit by a pitch to load the bases.
Barber stroked a single to center field to plate Leal, but a perfect relay throw nailed Russo at the plate.
Harris bore down and got a pop-up and ground out to keep the Crusader lead at 1-0.
“Heath is a bulldog on the mound,” Coomes said. “He is a real competitor and gives you everything he’s got. “He kept us in the game, gave us a chance to win and that’s all you can ask.”
Lake Placid threatened in the bottom of the fifth inning as Tyler Carr ripped a double down the left-field line, but Gonzalez, who struck out six, fanned the next two hitters to end the threat.
Harris, who scattered seven hits, retired Tampa Catholic in order in the top of the seventh inning to give the Green Dragons one last chance to win the game.
Nathan Stanley got things rolling with a leadoff single and Martin came on in relief of Gonzalez. Martin struck out the next batter, but an error on a ground ball put runners at first and second base with one out.
A fielder’s choice put the tying run at third base and the winning run at second base with two outs, but Martin got a ground ball to second base to end the game.
“I’m proud of this team because we had a good season,” Coomes said. “We got rolling late in the season, but we did get it going and played our best ball down the stretch.
“Only two baseball teams in Lake Placid’s history can say they won a district championship and this team is one of them and they join the 2006 squad.”
The Green Dragons lose a number of seniors, but several key players return so the future is bright for the Lake Placid baseball program, but it will have to carry on without Coomes, who is stepping down as head coach after eleven years.
“It means a lot to wear this Lake Placid uniform,” the 59-year-old Coomes said. “It’s been a long career and it’s time to give it up and let some of these young guys run the program.
“It still hurts to let it go, but I’ve been thinking about this for the last couple of years and it’s the right time.”