After battling back from a rocky start in Thursday’s Region 1-3A quarterfinal against visiting Providence School of Jacksonville, North Florida Christian’s season effectively ended Thursday evening on one swing of the bat.
With the score tied entering the seventh inning, Providence third baseman David Boyle blasted a solo home run to give the Stallions a surprising 7-6 victory.
“That was definitely not how we wanted to play,” said NFC coach Mike Posey, whose Eagles stumbled in the playoffs for the second consecutive year after winning a state championship in 2011.
The Eagles (21-6) entered Thursday’s game having won 11 consecutive games. They had allowed more than six runs just once all season, and they appeared to be off to a great start against Providence.
But after scoring three runs in the bottom of the first inning, things went south in a hurry. The Stallions pushed six runs across in the second on only one hit as NFC ace Carson Sands struggled with his control. He was pulled after facing just nine batters.
“We’ve talked about this all year — you can’t give runs away,” Posey said. “When you’re walking batters and not making plays in the field, it always comes back to hurt you. And that’s exactly what happened today. That second inning was bad.”
After another pitching change, the Eagles looked to Sands’ younger brother, Cole, to stop the bleeding. And he came through in a big way, getting NFC out of that jam and keeping Providence at bay until the seventh inning.
“Cole gave us a chance to get comfortable and score some runs,” Posey said. “He was throwing strikes.”
While Sands was dialed in on the mound, the Eagles would fight back adding two runs in the third and another run in the fourth to tie the game at 6-6.
MT Minacci was hot at the plate for the Eagles, going 2 for 3 with a solo home run and a double, while the Sands brothers each had two-run singles to help NFC close the gap.
But the Eagles didn’t have enough offense to take the lead, and they were unable to answer when Boyle gave Providence the late one-run advantage.
“We’re losing some leadership,” Posey said. “Hopefully some of the guys coming back will step up and help us get back here next year.”