FRIDAY, June 2, 2017
End of the line for the Sailors
Source: Published by Herald Tribune, Dennis Maffezzoli
FORT MYERS - The Sarasota High baseball team has made a habit of winning close games during the postseason against top-notch competition, using solid pitching, timely hitting and smart defense.
On the biggest stage of the season Friday, all three areas failed the Sailors at one time or another.
Oviedo Hagerty scored four runs in the first inning and got a four-hit shutout from senior right-hander Bailey Wendel in a 7-0 whitewash of Sarasota in the Class 8A state semifinal at Hammond Stadium at the CenturyLink Sports Complex, spring training home of the Minnesota Twins.
After losing to Lutz Steinbrenner in the championship game last year, the Huskies (23-9) move on to the 8A title game for a second straight season, while the Sailors (22-9) came up two wins short in a bid for their ninth state crown in program history.
“Tough way to end the season,” Sarasota coach Clyde Metcalf said. “It was a great ride that these guys gave us. We really felt we had a good 10 days of preparation. The kids worked hard and were focused. We got done what we needed to get done in that extended period. Today, we just didn’t play our game.”
Three Sarasota pitchers combined to issue seven walks to the Huskies, three of which came around to score.
“I don’t think we’ve walked seven the entire postseason,” Metcalf said.
Only two hitters — Alex Arauz and Joey Arnold — solved Wendel, getting two hits each. The Sailors had base runners in five of the seven innings, however, all five runners were left on base, three in scoring position.
Nine of the outs came on fly balls at spacious Hammond Stadium, a point Metcalf made on a daily basis during preparation leading up to the game.
“We put the ball in the air,” Arnold said. “Coach tells us every practice, ‘Don’t put the ball in the air.’ We got under everything.”
“We talked about it for 10 days in preparation for playing on a bigger field where the ball is not going to carry like on our high school field,” Metcalf said. “We hit some balls on the nose. We hit some balls well early and late that they were able to track down. If we had gotten those balls down a little bit we might have been able to make a run.”
While not committing an error, Sarasota permitted three stolen bases and allowed Hagerty to take the extra base on a couple of occasions after outs.
“Our team isn’t known for putting 15 runs up in a game,” starting and losing pitcher Brooks Larson said. “Sometimes the whole emotion and the situation gets to you. And that’s kinda what happened to us today.”
Of Sarasota first 31 games this season, 21 were decided by three runs or fewer, including the past four before Friday’s game.
When Hagerty scored three runs in the first inning, Sailors coach Metcalf knew it would be a tough task to overcome.
“We aren’t a big offensive club,” Metcalf said. “We’ve been able to keep games close and have the ability to beat people at the end. That three spot in the first hurt.”
The damage was done by the first four hitters of the game, who got a walk, single, two-run triple by Riley Greene and an RBI groundout by Britt Crawford.
“I came out there and some pitches didn’t go my way,” said Larson, who said nerves were not the cause of his slow start. “I left a little curveball a little high and he hit it. I tried to battle back.”
When the Huskies tacked on two more in the third inning to make it 5-0, the Sailors’ hole was too huge.
“When they were up 5-0 in the third ... that’s a big deficit for us to fight back from,” Metcalf said. “That’s the way we’ve played all year. It wasn’t because of lack of heart or effort. Today, too big of a spread and too insurmountable.”
Wendel (7-2) made it insurmountable by working efficiently, getting outs early in the count. He walked one and struck out five in his 91-pitch effort.
“He made pitches when he needed to,” Metcalf said. “He picked his game up. That’s a credit to a pitcher doing his job. He seemed to find a different gear when we got runners on base.”
The Sailors did some things well. They turned a 6-4-3 double play and hit balls hard and deep, like Larson’s drive to the warning track to end the fourth.
But it was not the typical Sarasota-type game the team has played down the stretch.
“For the most part we did a lot of little things well today,” Metcalf said. “A lot of heart, tremendous desire. I’ve got a lot of adjectives I can use. They played together as a team as well as any team I’ve coached in 36 years at Sarasota High.”
Metcalf got emotional when speaking of bidding adieu to nine seniors, who returned to Sarasota after the game to partake in graduation ceremonies.
“I wanna cry,” Metcalf said. “It’s always hard. I’ve done this thing for 42 years and it’s hard to say goodbye to these guys. Very special group. Four of them, not going to play. They excelled academically, socially and on the baseball field.
“You become a part of their life and they really become part of your life. They set a great example, a tremendous. I know our younger kids will follow it and we’re all going to be better because of them.”