Regional return


photo by Chatham Farrell

Catcher Robby Post takes a swing at a pitch during the team’s home game against Lake Howell on April 4. The team went on to win the game, 9-5.

Bryson Turner, Online Editor

The varsity baseball team trudged off the field at Winter Springs, having been shut out for the first time all season against Lake Howell in the district championship, 5-0.

“I was upset with myself that I didn’t pitch as good as I could have,” starting pitcher Luke Babineau said. “A lot of things could have went differently, but it doesn’t matter now.”

Though the team fell short against Lake Howell, it still has won consecutive playoff games to advance to the regional quarterfinals for the third consecutive year. Only this time, they lacked home field advantage.

Such an edge had certainly been helpful to the team over the course of the regular season, where they finished 12-1 on their home field, the only loss coming to Oviedo.

That loss, however, was only a small blemish in an opening half of the season that saw the team go 13-2, the only losses being to Oviedo, and a 4-2 loss to Montverde Academy in a tournament over spring break.

“We did better than I expected,” center fielder Riley Greene said. “We just needed to keep grinding to keep things going.”

This part of the season proved crucial for Babineau. Originally, junior Angelo Garcia was supposed to be a starting pitcher alongside the team’s lone senior, Chris Ragosta, and Babineau would fill in when either of them needed rest, but once Garcia was sidelined with a torn labrum that required surgery, Babineau was needed to carry a heavier load than he anticipated.

“When I got the chance to pitch, I just went out there and took the most of my opportunity,” Babineau said.

Ragosta simply wants to set an example for his teammates with his performance on the field.

“I enjoy being the only senior because I can become a leader to the other guys, so when next year comes they will know how to get their work done right,” Ragosta said.

Babineau and Ragosta have each made 10 starts this season, struck out 39 and 40 batters respectively and allowed less than 20 runs individually over the course of their 20 starts.

After a more difficult second half of the season that still saw the team going 7-3, which included losses to Lake Howell, Lake Mary and Lake Brantley, the district tournament was upon them once more. While they secured their spot in the regional tournament with a 13-3 run rule victory against Edgewater, the loss against Lake Howell, while not ending the team’s season, was still a blow, but head coach Matt Cleveland saw it another way.

“That wasn’t our night. [We] made just a couple key mistakes and a lot of hard hits didn’t fall,” Cleveland said. “The next day we were ready to get back to work and the loss was over. ”

Already the team began to dissect what went wrong over the course of the game, mentally preparing themselves for the game to come.

“It was a tough loss, we faced a good arm, but we got that behind us.” third basemen Jackson Grabsky said. “We just go into each game 0-0, and we try to win the day and play as hard as we can for the full 21 outs.”

In the first playoff game, the regional quarterfinal, the team faced Windemere, the opponent they beat, 7-2, on opening day. This time, however, Windemere started its left-handed ace, a type of pitcher the team has struggled against.

“We knew we were going to face a good lefty arm, so we worked on seeing stuff from the left side and things like that,” Babineau said.

It was a pitching duel for the first four innings, neither pitcher giving an inch. Then, in the fifth inning, the team struck first, scoring in two runs. One from a double off the bat of second basemen Austin Cymerman that drove in utility man Sam Spicuzza, and another from a sacrifice fly off the bat of catcher Robby Post that brought Greene home.

From there, the team didn’t look back. With the help of some defensive heroics from left fielder Cole Ramirez and three more runs coming in the seventh inning, the team shut out Windemere, 5-0, earning a place in the regional semifinal that is currently scheduled for Wednesday, May 16, against St. Cloud.

“We played clean baseball the whole game,” Ragosta said. “Winning that first big game of regionals just sets what we could potentially do the rest of the playoffs.”

Update: After several delays directly and indirectly due to inclement weather, the team defeated St. Cloud, 5-1, at Osceola Heritage Park on Friday, May 18, to advance to the FHSAA Regional Finals for the third consecutive year. Grabsky and shortstop Vaughn Grissom each got one run and one RBI and Ragosta earned his ninth win of the season. In a rematch of last year’s Regional Final, the team will hit the road to play George Jenkins on May 22. For up-to-date scores and game schedules, click this link to go to the FHSAA website.