It took two postponements and 2 1/2 hours of play to complete a game that was numerically over in five minutes. Such was the end of Island Coast’s baseball season, an 18-4 six-inning loss to Gulf Coast in the Region 6A-4 quarterfinals.
The Sharks had seven runs on the board and knocked out the starting pitcher before the Gators’ first plate appearance. The slider and fastball of Gulf Coast pitcher Mike Zimmerman kept the Gators from reaching first base for the first three innings. Meanwhile, the Sharks built up an 11-0 lead.
“Sometimes the balls come right to you,” Island Coast coach Clint Montgomery said. “Today they were hitting them over us, they were dropping them in between us, they were doing it every way possible. That’s why they’re a great team and moving on.”
But after that initial shock wore off, Island Coast stuck around. An infield single by Anthony Churlin led off the bottom of the fourth, starting a rally. A few plays later, Churlin scored on a passed ball. Then, aided by a strong sea breeze, Nikko Rodriguez belted a double all the way to the fence in right-center field, driving Kameron Gellinger home and making it an 11-2 game.
Gulf Coast tacked on another run in the fifth, bringing forth the dreaded 10-run rule. Facing elimination, the Island Coast bats went to work again. Cole Ondrejka hit a line drive to left, sending home Churlin and Gellinger. That made it 12-4, guaranteeing at least one more inning.
“They were just hanging tough, kept getting base hits, getting on base, doing their job to stay in it,” Zimmerman said.
But one more inning was all they would get. Already on their third pitcher at the start of the sixth inning, the Gators were out of arms. Gulf Coast poured on six more runs, and this time the double-figure deficit stuck.
The game was the last for six seniors, including four starters, on the Island Coast roster.