The pursuit of the state championship title ended short for a lot of the teams in the Observer’s coverage area. However, the Foundation Academy baseball team and The First Academy softball team both made school history as they reached the Final Four in their respective pursuits.
The Foundation Academy baseball team made history as it advanced to the Final Four after defeating Orangewood Christian 7-3 during the regional final Tuesday, May 17.
“The thing about this game, it was really a microcosm of our season,” head baseball coach Jay Welsh said. “All season long, we’ve battled adversity — whether it’d be with injuries or internally.”
The Lions took the lead early, scoring their first two runs at top bottom of the lead and reaching a 3-0 lead during the top of the fifth.
Tyler Cannon was the starting pitcher for the team. He pitched four-and-one-third innings, allowing one run on two hits while striking out three and walking two. Braden Holcomb came in as relief from the bullpen and pitched two-and-two-thirds innings, allowing two runs on six hits while striking out four and walking zero.
The Rams tied the game at the bottom of the fifth, but the Lions were able to score four more runs during the sixth and seventh innings, which put them into the competition for the state championship.
“The best thing that I told the kids is, ‘We have a chance,’” Welsh said. “There’s thousands of other schools that don’t have one, and we have that. We are pretty fearless, we think we can take anybody. … We are the underdogs.”
However, the team’s quest for a state title ended when it fell 4-2 to Miami Christian Academy Monday, May 23, in the state semifinal.
The First Academy softball team made school history after facing two different teams last week.
The Royals defeated Orlando Christian Prep 3-1 Wednesday, May 18, during the regional semifinal. The game was first set for Tuesday, May 17, but weather conditions forced it to be postponed and continued the next day.
During the regional final, the girls shut out Mount Dora Christian Academy 4-0 to become one of the Final Four teams competing for the state championship title.
“I’ve waited for this day for 23 years,” assistant baseball coach Jane Knuth said. “In my last year — I’m retiring in July — to go to the Final Four. … I’ve just got chill-bumps.”
Senior Hannah Harper pitched the entire game for the Royals, allowing zero runs on three hits while walking zero and striking out five.
“Whenever I go into the game, I just think 21 outs later — that’s the main goal,” she said. “It’s really surreal, we’ve been working for this so hard every year. We were so close last year, it’s really mind-blowing and feels relieving, honestly.”
The team took the lead early in the game, scoring its first run at the top of the first and the next three at the top of the third.
“Feeling great, I am so excited for these girls, so excited for this school,” head baseball coach Kaley Gogenholff said. “Since I’ve been here, this has been my dream for them. … I can’t wait for them to experience it, there’s really nothing like it, it’s so special.”
The girls faced Evangelical Christian School during the state semifinal Tuesday, May 24, after press time.
The Foundation Academy softball team ended its season Tuesday, May 17, as it fell against Mount Dora Christian Academy 8-6 during the regional semifinals.
“Unfortunately, we came up short,” head baseball coach Tate McClellan said. “Both teams were great offense- and defense-wise, nobody else I’d rather played, honestly, than them.”
The Bulldogs took the lead early, scoring their first three runs at the bottom of the first. However, the Lions were able to score their six runs through the remaining innings.
“The girls really exceeded my expectations this year,” McClellan said. “I had confidence in them, knew we were going to go far, but I mean we’ve never won a regional game, and we made it to regionals, so that’s huge.”
Sophia Smith was the starting pitcher for the Lions. She pitched one-third of an inning, allowing three runs on three hits, while striking out one and walking one. Riley Winters came in in relief of the bullpen and pitched five and two-thirds innings of the game.
The Lions were able to collect eight hits during the game. Winters, Elizabeth Ozim and Faith Fazzone connected multiple hits for their team.
“Next year, I’ll be expecting even better, just because the girls will be older, they’ll know more, and they learned a lot this season,” McClellan said. “Hopefully, we’ll have more girls coming in next year (who) can get the experience. We’re still going to be a young team next year, but I think a lot of teams kind of know us, I think we made a name for ourselves.”
The Lions have only one graduating senior, Jayda Ross, who will be attending the University of South Florida.
The First Academy baseball team fell short during the quest to defend its state championship title. The Royals fell to Cardinal Newman 9-1 during the regional final Tuesday, May 17.
“These guys, the majority are seniors, and they’ve had a great four years,” head baseball coach Scott Grove said. “As disappointing as the loss was, there’s a lot to be thankful for with this group.”
During the last four years, the team’s overall record was 67-6, as the Royals collected three district championships, one state championship — all while playing in the regional finals three times.
“It was an amazing year,” Grove said. “Winning 26 games — that’s a lot of baseball games to win in a season.”
The Royals had three pitchers on the mound during the game. Isaac Sewell was the starting pitcher. He pitched five innings, allowed six runs on six hits while striking out four and walking one. Caleb Parmer came in as relief for the bullpen, pitched two-thirds of an inning, allowed zero runs on zero hits while striking out zero and walking one. Harrison Miller pitched the last one-and-one-third innings, allowing three runs on one hit while striking out two and walking zero.
Cardinal Newman put the first run of the game on the scoreboard during the top of the third inning, scoring most of its runs during the top of the fifth and taking a wide lead of 6-0. The Crusaders scored their last three runs of the game during the top of the seventh. The First Academy was only able to score one run during the bottom of the sixth.
The Royals have 11 seniors on their roster; 10 already committed to play in college next year.
“That doesn’t happen with many senior classes — having that many seniors going off to play on the next level,” Grove said. “We think that we kind of planted a seed for them. Hopefully, we taught them to play the game the right way and give them a road filled with opportunity, once they get to college, to continue the success they’ve been having in baseball.”
The First Academy graduating seniors are Michael Rivera, Riley Parker, Greg Pettay, Ben Barrett, Tyler Rondon, Harrison Miller, Caleb Parmer, Isaac Sewell, Reid Williams, Josh Gannaway and DJ Brazelton.
Windermere High’s pursuit for a state championship title ended Tuesday, May 17, after the Wolverines fell to Plant 2-0 during the regional final.
"I thought it was a great season obviously," Windermere High head baseball coach Eric Lassiter said. "They just really picked each other up and it was probably one of the most fun teams I've ever been around. ... Everybody kind of stayed ready and did what they needed to do, so I'm really happy as how the team came together and formed that family bond."
Plant took the lead early in the game, scoring its first run at the top of the second inning.
The pitchers displayed a strong game on both sides. For the Wolverines, Cannon Feazell pitched six innings, allowed two runs on five hits while striking out three and walking three. Connor Fink came in as relief of the bullpen, pitching one inning while allowing zero runs on zero hits, striking out one and walking zero.
Windermere has five graduating seniors: Simon Sobellia, Max Pickert, Gustavo Mendez, Mason Evers and Blake Cyr.
"I'm excited to follow the guys as they go on to college," Lassiter said. "We continue watching more and more Windermere players go and play college baseball, so that's exciting for us as their coaching staff."
For next year, the team hopes to continue to grow the current team as the vast majority of the team will return the vast majority of the players.
"We have a really good core," Lassiter added. "But I'm excited to see the (team) grow, and be a little older next year, and for the players to have this experience under their belts."
The Windermere High softball team fell 8-2 against Lakewood Ranch High during the regional final Tuesday, May 17.
“The girls battled; they never stop fighting,” head baseball coach Eileen Hannigan said.
The Mustangs scored seven of their eight runs between the first and second innings, while the Wolverines scored their two runs at the top of the first.
“They just work so hard, they put in so much time on their own just to continue to get better,” Hannigan said. “They love the game, they are smart, they are still learning because they are young, but they are hungry. They are great teammates to (one another), too. The thing I’m most proud of is how well they played together and fought for each other. … It’s really exciting to see how much respect they have for the game and for each other.”
For next year, the team hopes to come back stronger.
“I said this often, and I stand by it,” Hannigan said. “We are going to be good, we are going to be dangerous, but this is not our year, and I said that because I knew how young we were.”
The team has only one graduating senior, Lexi Peani, who will be attending Florida State University and pursuing a career in medical school.
“She is an amazing young woman, absolutely brilliant and has a bright future ahead of her,” Hannigan said. “She wants to be a doctor; she is going to excel at whatever she does. … She’s resilient.”