In its first appearance in the final four for baseball, West Orange dropped a heartbreaker to Stoneman Douglas, 3-2, in the Class 9A State Semifinal.
FORT MYERS It seems fitting that, if the West Orange baseball team was going to lose, it was going to go down swinging.
And so it was that the Warriors, ranked No. 9 in the nation by MaxPreps, went down swinging against Parkland's Stoneman Douglas — ranked No. 3 in the nation in that same MaxPreps Xcellent 25 poll. West Orange fell 3-2 to the Eagles (26-2) in a thrilling Class 9A State Semifinal at jetBlue Park, spring training home of the Boston Red Sox.
It was just the third loss of the season for the Warriors (27-3), with those three losses coming by a combined four runs. The third and final loss ended West Orange's best season in program history, one that saw the Warriors set program records in a number of statistical categories and — more importantly — win the program's first-ever regional championship to make it to state.
"I've been here 12 years and we've had some great teams and it's always been a problem getting over the hump (to state) because the school had never been there in 40 years," Marlo said. "I just told these guys 'whether you won it or not, you guys got here and that's something that's never been done. You opened the gateway (for the program).'"
West Orange fell behind early as Stoneman Douglas pushed across a run in the top of the first on a wild pitch. The Warriors would respond in the bottom half of the inning, with senior Nathan Schreckengost singling in senior Kole Enright.
After the rocky start in the first, West Orange ace Tyler Baum settled in and allowed just one more run in five innings on the mound. Cole Beavin threw two innings in relief, allowing one run (unearned).
While the Warriors made contact against Eagles ace Brandon Kaminer throughout his 5 2/3 innings of work, a number of little things just didn't break in their favor.
After a leadoff double by Deandre Shelton in the bottom of the fifth, the standout junior was picked off on a controversial call. Shelton clearly beat the throw back to the bag, but was called out because — according to Marlo, who sought an explanation afterward — the infield umpire said he was tagged while switching which hand was on the bag. Marlo said that Shelton maintained that his hand was pushed off of the bag by the fielder for Stoneman Douglas. Shelton likely would have scored on a double by Doug Nikhazy later in the inning.
West Orange got a run back in the bottom of the sixth, to cut the lead to one, on a double by Chris Seise off the left field wall — on a ball that likely would have been out of most high school ballparks.
The Warriors left five runners on base, though afterward Marlo said he was proud of the team's effort in its final four debut.
"All I wanted to do was come out here and not beat ourselves, make the other team beat us — and I think that's what we did," Marlo said. "I mean, the guys gave it their all and played great baseball. It just didn't fall our way."
Contact Steven Ryzewski at [email protected].