Warriors ride timely hits, strong outing from starting pitcher Tyler Baum to their first regional championship appearance since 2010.
WINTER GARDEN There's a strong chance that, even without Nate Schreckengost's moonshot, two-run homer in the bottom of the sixth inning Tuesday night, West Orange would have defeated Apopka in the Class 9A Regional Semifinals.
After all, the Warriors were up 4-1 before Schreckengost launched a ball into the trees beyond the right field wall.
Then again, when you're playing the team that has ended your season in each of the past three years, it's better to be safe than sorry.
"Especially against a team like Apopka — three runs isn't enough," Schreckengost said. "It definitely helped to go up five instead of three."
Schreckengost and his teammates held on for a 6-1 win at Heller Bros. Ballpark, moving the program forward to the Class 9A Regional Final May 10. It is the deepest the Warriors (26-2) have advanced in the playoffs since 2010, when West Orange lost to Tampa's Alonso High in the regional final.
Tyler Baum got the start on the hill for the Warriors and, after allowing an unearned run in the top of the first inning, was flawless the rest of the way through five innings of work. Cole Beavin got the two-inning save for West Orange.
"(Baum) really turned it on for us after the first inning," head coach Jesse Marlo said.
The Warriors trailed Apopka 1-0 until the bottom of the fourth, when a pinch-hit single by sophomore Doug Nikhazy scored Hunter Cole, who was running for Ethan Jones. Jones had led off the inning with a double, to get the West Orange bats going.
"We've been getting a lot of clutch pinch-hits — these guys have been making me look good all season," Marlo said.
The Warriors will now take on Orange City's University High at 7 p.m. May 10. West Orange will face the Titans at 7 p.m. A win would send the program to the state final four for the first time.
For now, though, the Warriors can briefly enjoy a little payback to a quality team that had ended West Orange's season in 2013, 2014 and 2015.
"(In past years) it's been teams like Apopka and Olympia that have beaten us and this year those were our first two objectives — to get past them," Schreckengost said. "Our job's not done — we've got to get past this University team next week. We want to be the first (West Orange) team to get to state."
Contact Steven Ryzewski at [email protected].