Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Fernandina Falls; Pirates See Lead Slip Away in Final

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Fernandina Falls; Pirates See Lead Slip Away in Final

Article excerpt

Byline: Chase Goodbread, Times-Union sports writer

TAMPA -- When Fernandina Beach High School's game against Fort Lauderdale Aquinas was suspended after two innings because of rain Thursday night, coach Ken Roland said his team's 3-0 lead wouldn't be enough.

Unfortunately for the Pirates (28-6), Roland was right.

Aquinas (23-12) won the Class 4A state baseball title 4-3 in extra innings yesterday, knotting Fernandina Beach into a 3-3 tie with three runs in the fifth inning and one in the eighth for the win.

"We knew what we had to do to win, and we knew three runs wouldn't be enough." Roland said. "But I'm proud of our guys for getting this far. They showed a lot of character."

The Raiders' James McOwen chopped an infield single for a walk-off RBI to end the game in the eighth, scoring Steven Encinosa.

"When I saw it bounce over the pitcher's head, I knew I had a great chance to be safe," McOwen said. "I just put my head down and beat it out."

Encinosa had taken second on a single, but was able to advance to third when Fernandina center fielder Chris Beck misplayed the ball for his only error of the season, and the Pirates' only error of the game.

"We've got a great tradition of center fielders at Fernandina, and Chris is right there in line with them," Roland said. "We certainly wouldn't place any blame on him."

Pirates starting pitcher Rodd Gordon had a no-hitter after four innings, including two perfect frames before the suspension Thursday night. He was hit in the back by a pitch in the top of the fifth, however, and Aquinas promptly scored three in the bottom of the inning.

Gordon said being hit by the Sean Gallagher fastball did not affect his pitching.

But Roland said, "I think it might have stiffened him up."

Fernandina's Matt Davis relieved Gordon to escape a jam in the fifth, and threw two more scoreless innings before the decisive eighth. …

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