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Seacrest Country Day Slugs Its Way To 2A Championship

Freshman Justin Jackson tossed a complete-game shutout for the Stingrays.

Following a difficult start to the season, the Seacrest Country Day coaching staff decided to make many major changes. One of those adjustments was to switch to live batting practice intended to improve the team’s hitting approaches. Wednesday evening the Stingrays saw the fruits of all those labors in practice by busting loose for a huge day at the plate to run away with a 9-0 victory over the Wakulla Christian Saints, at Hammond Stadium in Fort Myers.

The Stingrays (20-9) advance to Thursday night’s title game, reaching the championship game for the second time in program history. They will take on the defending 2A champion Miami Christian Victors, who returned to defend their title thanks to a 3-2 win over Real Life Christian in Wednesday’s other semifinal.

“We felt we were prepared coming into this game,” Seacrest Country Day manager Mark Marsala said. “We knew there state runners-up last year so they were not going to be easy, but the level of schedule we play during the year I feel really prepares us. It’s no accident that we’ve been here four times in the last six years; we play and we play hard. We had a tough start in the early part of the season this year, and we made some changes in how we do business. You see the result of it now; we’ve won seventeen of our last nineteen and we’ve got one more to go. Anytime you play in the last game of the season it’s been a great year.”

Freshman Justin Jackson went the distance on the mound, tossing a complete-game shutout. The left-hander was composed beyond his years and he hit his spots all afternoon long, allowing five hits and striking out six.

“I really couldn’t have done it without my teammates. They really pushed me through to throw a good game, and I feel comfortable having them behind me so I can just throw my game,” Jackson said.

Seacrest struck in the bottom of the third inning to get on the scoreboard and take control. The Saints came up with an uncanny play to record the first out, as Dan DiNorcia put a charge in the ball to send it deep to the left-center gap, where it bounced out of center fielder Allen Willis’ glove but was then snared by left fielder Grant Barber on the ricochet. The unlikely L8-7 putout is possibly the first play of its kind in the entire history of the Florida state tournament.

Brandon Espinosa was 2-for-4 with a double and three RBIs for Seacrest.

“It was just crazy, it was a crazy catch,” Dan admitted. “I was going to run it out no matter what and I didn’t know what to expect.”

Jordan Martinez and Matt Riley both singled to follow and put the pressure on, and Andrew Geiger then delivered in the clutch with the first of many key hits by the Stingray offense. Geiger lined the ball just past the diving second baseman to drive in both runners and give Seacrest a lead it never surrendered.

“I told everyone to just relax and we’ve got this, and it started coming hits after hits after that,” Geiger said.

The Stingrays continued adding runs to increase its lead, next with two more runs in the third that doubled the lead. Thomas Cepero led off with a base hit, advanced to third thanks to sacrifice bunts from Dwight Zafra and Kyle Kruk and scored off an RBI single from Dan DiNorcia. Matt Riley then drove in another with a base hit to center.

Another inning brought another run to push it to a 5-0 advantage. Geiger reached base on an error to start things off, and Brandon Espinosa sent a liner just fair into the left field corner for an RBI double.

Wakulla Christian finally got things going offensively in the top of the sixth. Lyric Oaks lined a single to center and Aaron Collins followed with a flare into shallow right field. But Oaks was erased attempting to advance to third base, which proved costly when Aiden Driscoll-Sandusky followed with another base hit to right. A pop fly to center then ended the threat.

Seacrest got right back after it from there, loading up the bases with no outs to start the bottom of the sixth. Dan DiNorcia walked, Martinez singled and Riley also walked to fill up the bags. Geiger came through with a sac-fly RBI and Espinosa ripped a liner past the drawn-in infield defense for a two-RBI single that made it a 8-0 lead. Cepero then sent a flare to center just out of reach of the diving outfielder to plate Espinosa for the final run of the evening.

“I can’t say enough,” Marsala said. “We started two freshmen and four sophomores out there, so we’re happy with the level that these boys are playing at right now. Very, very happy.”

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