The Cape Coral Seahawks won't have long to think about Friday's stunning 5-4 loss to Cypress Lake in the District 5A-13 baseball championship game at Mariner.
Coach Mike Gorton will see to that. They have a regional quarterfinal playoff game to get ready for Thursday night at Estero. The loss meant they must play on the road for at least the first regional match, and likely the second if they survive Estero and Cypress Lake gets past Lely to set up a rematch.
"It's tough to play on the road, but we know what to expect," said Gorton. "I just have to talk to the kids, straighten them out and get their minds right again after tonight."
The Seahawks (15-10) were visibly shaken after the Panthers' five-run, game-winning rally with two out in the bottom of the seventh inning Friday night.
"We played it right," said Gorton. "I've been around baseball enough to know that stuff like that happens. I've seen a hundred games like that, but you know it's not over until its over."
The Panthers spoiled a solid pitching performance by left-hander Shane McClanahan, who allowed just three hits and struck out eight over six scoreless innings. The Panthers erupted against Cape reliever Anthony Lawrence to snatch the championship from the Seahawks' grasp. Lawrence retired the first two batters on a groundout and a fly ball to right. Then the bottom fell out.
Gorton said he would not have played the inning any differently in hindsight.
"(Shane's) pitch count was up around 100," said Gorton. "We only called him up from JV about 10 games ago. Lawrence deemed himself our closer by midseason, so it was a no-brainer in that situation. All he has done for us all year is throw strikes and get batters out."
Inexplicably, Lawrence walked a batter, surrendered a single to center and hit a batter to load the bases. Corey Gibson, who was hitless, drew a walk to force in the first run. Richie Lacell cleared the bases with a deep drive to the center field fence and tie the game 4-4.
Gorton then called on Regis Easler to bail out the Seahawks, hoping for extra innings. Instead, Easler promptly walked a batter to extend the rally for the Panthers' Andy Williams, who hit a deep fly to the base of the right field fence to score Lacell with the game-winning run.
The Panthers players exploded out of the dugout to mob both Lacell and Williams and celebrate the school's first district title in years.
"That's amazing since there have been a lot of great players go through this program," said Panthers coach Josh Corr, in his second season. "It's been a while. We had chances earlier, but when you have runners in scoring position you have to get a hit. Their lefty kept us off balance all night. he competed in the strike zone and his fastball ran away from the hitters. He was almost unhittable, but if he had a changeup he'd be better. I'm not looking forward to facing him next year."
The Panthers (19-8) earned home field advantage for at least the first round of regional playoffs. They host District 5A-14 runner-up Lely Thursday night.
The Seahawks broke the scoreless tie in the fifth inning, scratching out one run thanks to the bottom of the batting order. With two out, Alex Polidan singled sharply to right. Baily Wilson delivered a hit-and-run single to right-center and Polidan beat the throw to the plate.
In the sixth, a leadoff single by Scott Dudas set the tone for another run. Dudas was sacrificed to second and Kyle Arjona walked. Matt Hale forced Dudas at third base on a bouncer back to the mound.
The Seahawks took advantage of several swinging bunts down the third base line on the night, including one by Dylan Bontrager that loaded the bases. David Schulz did the same thing, driving in the second run.
The Seahawks doubled their lead in the top of the seventh. Back to back walks with one out and Cody Carroll's chopper in front of the plate loaded the bases once again. Arjona bounced a single up the middle through a drawn-in infield boosting the lead to 4-0.
The Seahawks finished with seven base hits, six of those coming in the last three innings.
Cape Coral 000 011 2 - 4 7 1
Cypress Lake 000 000 5 - 5 6 1
W - Hammond. L - Lawrence.
2B - Lacell (CL), Williams (CL).
Lemon Bay 6, Mariner 0: Mariner's season came to an end Tuesday night with a shutout loss at Lemon Bay in the Region 5A-4 semifinals.
Lemon Bay sprayed 14 base hits, including a home run, to pack all of its runs into the first three innings.
The Tritons (14-11) were limited to four base hits, including two doubles by Alyssa Langdale, who took the loss on the mound as well to finish the season 13-11.
Lemon Bay advances to the regional final round on Friday at American Heri-tage.
Mariner 000 000 0 - 0 4 2
Lemon Bay 213 000 x - 6 14 0
W - Carvey. L - Langdale (13-11).
2B - Langdale (M) 2. HR - Clemons (LB).