WINTER PARK – In the top of the fourth inning Friday night of the Class 8A-Region 2 baseball final against Winter Park, Bloomingdale High junior Logan Crouse was taking practice cuts on deck to start the inning. As Bulls coach Kris Wilken walked out to coach third he turned and asked Crouse, then the designated hitter, if he was “ready?”
Crouse’s answer: “I’m always ready.”
The Bulls turned to the Florida State commit, trailing by a run, to take the mound. Crouse didn’t disappoint as the Bulls scraped out a pair of runs to top Winter Park 2-1 and reach the state final four.
The scene was quite different from Thursday at practice according to Wilken, where Crouse, 17, was battling with his coach to get the start. The two went back and forth, the coach winning with the argument that they’d need him later rather than at the start.
“He’s a stubborn kid,” Wilken said. “But that’s why he’s so good.”
Confidence is not a stumbling block for the 6-foot-6, junior righty, who said after the game, Wilken’s decision was the right one.
“I just wanted to go, you have to have confidence in yourself over anybody,” Crouse said. “I was a little disappointed not to start, but I knew our guys had it and I waited to get up there.”
Once up there, Crouse allowed a single to his first batter in the fourth, before striking out five the rest of the way. Bloomingdale (20-9) tied the game in the fifth as Josh Mote singled to start the inning, was replaced by pinch-runner Julian Ossias, who evened the game scoring from third on a wild pitch. The Bulls took the lead the next inning as Crouse, who reached on a fielder’s choice and then stole second, scored on an Austin James single.
James said he was looking for a way to make up for a pair of miscues on the field – one of which allowed Winter Park’s run. The sophomore did just that on a two-out, two-strike count, roping a ball to shallow center. The Bulls had a game-saving play on defense as a single to center looked sure to plate a second Wildcats run, but a slip of Winter Park’s runner, a solid relay from the outfield and a nice plate defense from Jamie Calloway kept the run off the board.
7A-2: Sickles falls to Kissimmee Osceola
KISSIMMEE - Against Osceola in the Class 7A-Region 2 championship, Sickles ran into a steep mountain it could not find its way around.
It’s name was Jake Grenus.
The Kowboys junior right-hander singlehandedly ended the Gryohons (19-8) season, throwing a complete-game three-hitter with eight strikeouts in a 3-0 win.
“In high school ball, the most devastating pitch is the changeup,” said Sickles coach Bob Pagano. “And dang, he had a good change up. He kept us totally off-balance. Kudos to him. He did a great job.”
Osceola (25-6) scored its three runs in the bottom of the third, getting an RBI double from Gabrielle Pedraza and a two-run double from Gustavo Rios.
In the top of the seventh, Sickles had runners on first and second with two outs when Maddux Faber reached first on a single and stole second, followed by Patrick O’Donnell being walked by Grenus.
Grenus ended game on an unassisted play at first, picking up a ground ball hit by Matt Gele.
Sickles ace Troy Bacon struck out seven and allowed six hits in the loss. Senior outfielder Xavier Rodriguez had two of Sickles’ three hits.
4A-3: Bishop Verot tops Berkeley Prep
TAMPA – Jeff Passantino and his senior classmates at Fort Myers Bishop Verot are heading back to the state baseball semifinals for the f
ourth consecutive year. The right-hander scattered four hits while going the distance in a 5-2 victory against Berkeley Prep in the Class 4A-Region 3 championship game.
“To be able to go do this one more time is a great feeling,” said Passantino, whose freshman season ended in a state title celebration.
Berkeley Prep (16-13) won eight of its last nine games to reach the region final for the second time in three years, but pitching experience on the big stage was lacking on this night.
Still, sophomore Casey Keller and eighth-grade reliever Julian Bosnic combined to allow only three earned runs.
“That’s a testament to the talent we have coming up and to the commitment all of our guys have,” Berkeley Prep coach Justin Houston said.
Also returning next year will be outfielder Anthony Pellegrino, who had three of the four Bucs hits and scored both runs.
3A-2: Tampa Prep eliminated
MAITLAND - At the end of the game, all Tampa Prep coach AJ Hendrix could do was shake his head, and call up the old adage, “That’s baseball,” after one off inning proved too much to overcome as the Terrapins fell 7-1 to Orangewood Christian in the Class 3A-Region 2 final.
“That’s high school baseball and if you don’t make the pitches, don’t make the plays then that one inning can be all you need,” Hendrix said.
Tampa Prep (19-11) and Orangewood Christian traded a pair of runs in the first inning as two errors apiece allowed each team on the board.
The Rams’ roster boasted six hitters with more than 25 hits on the season and Orangewood showed some poise in the third inning.
A pair of walks and a single chased Terrapins starter Sam Martin and the inning spiraled as a pair of hit batters, and a pair of run-scoring singles accounted for six runs and put things out of reach for Tampa Prep.
Senior Nick DeTringo, who was 2-for-3 with a double, said the loss was not the way he and his fellow seven seniors wanted the year to end, but he was happy that the team will leave the school with the most wins of any single class.
“Our senior class is the winningest class in school history,” DeTringo said. “We fought the whole way, lost our district championship and it lit a fire for us, but (Orangewood) was just a great hitting team.”