Unfortunately for the Strawberry Crest Chargers, a series of errors defined Friday morning’s 8A state semifinal game.
The Sarasota Sailors advanced to Saturday’s championship round with a 5-2 win over the Chargers. Though the Chargers were able to stay competitive for most of the game, going down on the scoreboard but never going away, they were ultimately undone by eight errors and the Sailors’ capitalization on them.
“We made mistakes we don’t normally make,” head coach Eric Beattie said. “With that being said, this is a special group and I’d go to bat with them.”
Sarasota’s Nick Winkelmeyer and Crest’s Derek Barone put their teams on the scoreboard in the first inning, taking a 1-1 tie into the second. Jack Duffy led off the top of the second inning with a single and Andre James’s RBI triple put the Sailors ahead, 2-1. The Sailors struck again in the third inning when Michael Dorso was able to score on a Crest error, and Dorso scored Owen Ayers with an RBI double in the fourth inning to take a 4-1 lead. But Crest was able to generate some offense of its own in the bottom of the fourth, thanks to a Damien Torres single that drove in Barone. With a 4-2 score, the Chargers got their confidence back up.
“There was no doubt in my mind that we were never out of that game, no matter how many runs they’ve scored,” Barone said. “I’ve always had faith in my teammates, their ability and what they can do…I feel like we were always in the game.”
Solid pitching by Brent May and battling at the plate kept Crest alive through the next inning and a half, but Sarasota sealed the final score in the top of the sixth. With two outs, Winkelmeyer reached first base on a walk. During Dorso’s subsequent at-bat, Winkelmeyer took second base on an error, got to third with a passed ball and scored on a wild pitch to bring the Sailors’ lead up to 5-2.
Though Crest’s loss could be chalked up to any number of things — first-time jitters, inexperience, a wet field's effect on the ball or maybe those errors — Beattie said the progress the program made this season has been excellent and the Chargers would leave Fort Myers knowing full well they ended their season as one of the four best 8A teams in the state.
“Going into the game, I just told my guys I was proud of them for being here,” Beattie said. “No matter what the outcome was, we were gonna walk off holding our heads high, and it would be an experience they’d never forget.”