PLANTATION — Estero’s offense was once again skimpy, but that didn’t matter with lefthander Zeke Pietryk rising to the occasion in the most important game in Wildcat history.
The junior pitcher silenced the potent bats of defending state champion Plantation American Heritage, holding the host Patriots to just three hits in a 3-2 victory in Friday’s Region 5A-4 final and lifting the Wildcats (20-9) to their first state Final Four berth. Estero avenged its 1-0 loss to the same Patriots a year ago.
“Two games ago, we had just three hits,” Estero coach Frank Turco said. “The last game we had just five hits. We’re opportunistic and came up with the key hits when we need them.”
The Patriots, who end their season at 25-3, were coming off two postseason games where the offense produced 20 hits, 12 of them for extra bases.
“We had an extensive scouting report on them, so I felt we were prepared,” Pietryk said following the on-field celebration. “We knew they had mercy-ruled their last two opponents with 10-0 wins, but I also knew they had a lot of strikeouts. I knew I had to limit the walks and rely on the defense behind me.”
Pietryk, who improved to 7-2 with a complete-game victory, struck out 10 batters and walked just one. However, he had to survive a late-inning scare when Heritage’s CJ Chatham led off the seventh with a solo home run to cut the Wildcats’ lead to 3-2.
But Pietryk shut down the Patriots with a groundout to third and two strikeouts to end the game.
Estero struck early with Jason Moore ripping a two-out RBI single to left off Louis Beck (6-1) for the 2-0 lead. Pietryk hit a double off the left field wall and scored along with Ryan Keegan (single).
The Wildcats eeked out another run in the fifth after loading the bases with one out, keyed by Keegan’s second hit of the game, a run-scoring single to drive in Braeden Bradford.