Considering this was Estero’s first state appearance, considering that it was 8-7 at one point this season, that even the most ardent Wildcats’ fans would have a hard time ranking this team among coach Frank Turco’s five best, it has been quite an achievement to be Class 5A runners-up.
Even to be two outs from winning the whole thing.
Ponte Vedra spoiled the Wildcats’ magical season with a 6-2 win in nine innings Thursday at Jet Blue Park. After scoring a run in the top of the seventh to tie it, the Sharks scored four in the ninth.
“The Cinderella story for FGCU ended,” Turco said. “Ours did, too.”
Dejected players had a hard a time putting describing this run they made in the last few weeks. But as shortstop Ryan Keegan noted, “It’s a lot better to be have this state runner-up medal than a regional runner-up medal.”
He added, “It’s hard to hold everything back when we just lost but we think we did a good job. I didn’t think we’d make it this far to states.”
Terrell Chapman thought if his team played its best, it could win districts — maybe. “Then the chemistry started coming in,” he said.
Wesley Pruitt, who told players in two weeks they’d feel awfully good in what they accomplished, said, “It does hurt now. When you’re labeled as a team not as good as teams we’ve had in years past, you find ways to win.”
Pitcher Zeke Pietrzyk, who threw 119 pitches over 8 2/3 innings, added, “This loss hurts a lot. We needed one last win. But we’ve had a real good year.”
One of the keys in Estero’s run has been their constant chants, cheers and yells during games.
Bola (Spanish for ball), Vamos (“Let’s go”) are some along with “No, no, no, not today”, an innocent copy of Dikembe Mutombo’s Geico Commercial.
In the seventh inning, Estero players had their caps on backwards. Their rally caps hoped to come up with another magical win.
“Zeke talks to us and said he couldn’t stand what we do,” shortstop Ryan Keegan said. “He couldn’t take it.”
Pietrzyk admitted, “That would drive me crazy. It does drive a pitcher crazy.
“I’m all for it, it works and gets the other team distracted.”
Turco felt it doesn’t so much bother the other team as much as it keeps his in the game. He’s noticed more focus, which means less mental and physical mistakes.
“It has everything to do with us,” he said.
Catcher Jason Moore said, “We can tell when the energy in dugout is up and when we need to perform.”
The pop foul
Pietrzyk said he kept thinking about it.
Turco said “I’ll see that in my dreams for awhile.”
Seventh inning. One out, two on. Foul pop fly on third-base side.
Catcher Jason Moore calls for the catch but either Pietrzyk didn’t hear him or tried to call him off.
Pietrzyk runs into Moore as ball comes down. Ball is dropped.
Two pitches later, Ponte Vedra ties the game.
“I wish I would’ve yelled something,” said Turco who wanted to take the blame. “It was in front of me. I saw the flight and I wanted to see where the ball would go. I saw Zeke came over and I froze. It was the catcher’s ball. Zeke just wanted it. It’s baseball. It gave them a second chance and they capitalized.”
Pietrzyk said, “It was a tough angle. I camped under it and it hit my glove. We’ve worked on that in practice.”
Moore admitted he was surprised when Pietrzyk made contact with him as the ball came down. “I think he thought it was closer to him,” he said. “It’s tough.”