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Lemon Bay’s Cinderella Season Ends In 5A Semifinal

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Bishop Moore came into their 5A semifinal game knowing that their opponent in Lemon Bay was an upstart team on a magical playoff run. The Hornets, playing to advance to the state title game, sent their ace, Josh Bates, to the mound to combat the hot Manta Rays.

Bates delivered another in a long line of dominant performances on the season, throwing a complete game while not giving up his first hit until there were two outs in the seventh inning. The Bishop Moore offense also was rolling, en route to a 8-0 semifinal win. The Hornets advanced into Thursday’s title game against Jacksonville Bolles, the defending 5A state champions, searching for its third title in program history and first in ten years.

“I don’t think it was the pressure of the big stage that got us today, it was the pitcher on the other team,” Lemon Bay manager Casey Hanrahan said. “We had every intention of coming here and giving it 100%, and I think we did. We went up against a guy that pitched a very good game.”

Lemon Bay sent ace Trey Fields to the mound, and the Hornets offense greeted him with aggressive play early. Seth Martin led off the game with a double to right-center field. After Martin advanced to third on a passed ball, Bobby Spitulski had an infield hit, and suddenly the Hornets had runners on the corners in the opening frame.

Kyle Mock then drove in the first run of the game with a single to left, and Fabian Escalante walked, loading the bases. After Fields struck out the next batter, Quinton Martinez singled, extending the lead to 2-0. Fields was then able to work out of the jam without further damage.

“We were still in it at that point. I didn’t think it was over by any means after that first inning,” Hanrahan said.

The two runs was more than enough for Bates, who had given up three runs or more in only three of his 12 starts in 2017. Bates mostly located his fastball, mixing in a few off-speed to overpower the Manta Rays for most of the afternoon. The right-hander admitted that he came into Wednesday’s contest with a chip on his shoulder, after his club lost in the same spot a season ago.

“I was just going out there and filling up the zone,” Bates said. “I was able to go out there and pitch with a lead, and Coach has been preaching all year to pitch with a lead, fill up the zone and let your defense work. That was able to help me out a lot. I really felt my fastball today, and my curveball was really on too. After the first inning I knew my pitches were really on and I knew it was going to be a good game.”

After fields settled down and fired three scoreless innings, the Bishop Moore offense picked up the pace again in the fifth. The Hornets broke open the game with a pair of runs, highlighted by Kyle Mock and Connor Scheitzach singles. Parker Thompson added a sacrifice fly in the inning, upping the score to 4-0.

When Bishop Moore tacked on an additional four runs in the sixth and seventh, the only drama that was left was whether Bates would finish off the no-hitter. Unfortunately for the Hornets ace, Fields would get a semblance of revenge when he lined a one-out single to right.

“It was a low fastball in the zone and he went down and got it,” Bates said. “At first you say to yourself, ‘Dang it’, but there is a bigger picture and I am just happy that we were able to get the win.”

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