Chipper Andzel’s calculated decision proved to be the split-second difference in Friday’s season-opening baseball game between Chiles and nationally-ranked North Florida Christian.
Andzel’s steal of home with two outs in the bottom of the fourth inning lifted the Timberwolves to a dramatic 1-0 victory over the visiting Eagles in a showdown that, as expected, featured dominating pitching. The teams combined for just two hits and 21 strikeouts.
NFC (0-1) also entered ranked 24th in the Baseball America/National High School Coaches Association Top 25 poll, one of five Florida teams listed.
“I had no idea if I had it (stolen) or not, it was a little scary,” said Andzel, one of four Florida State commitments on the field from both teams. “This game gives us momentum going into the season, especially beating a team like NFC.”
Chiles senior starter Boomer Biegalski out-dueled NFC junior ace Carson Sands. Biegalski allowed one hit over five shutout innings with 11 strikeouts and no walks before a chilled but standing-room-only crowd. He fanned eight of the last 10 hitters he faced.
“It was a lot of fun, especially against Carson Sands because he’s a great pitcher,” said Biegalski, a College of Central Florida commitment (the school is formally known as Central Florida Community College). “I had a lot of adrenaline going, and it took me an inning to settle down.”
Sands, who pitched for Team USA last summer and also committed to FSU, was nearly as effective over five innings. The junior left-hander struck out seven and surrendered an infield single in the second inning. But his second of two walks to Andzel hurt him.
Andzel walked to lead off the bottom of the fourth inning, stole second base on a delayed steal and went to third on a passed ball. He raced home with two outs on a 2-and-1 count, barely beating Sands’ fastball to the plate.
“I timed him (Sands’ windup) and kept getting a bigger and bigger lead, and I just went,” Andzel said.
Left-hander Logan Smith notched the save for the Timberwolves with two shutout innings.
MT Minacci, also a FSU commitment, had NFC’s lone hit — a one-out double down the left-field line in the top of the first inning. But Biegalski wiggled out of trouble with a strikeout and groundout.
Harlan Harris had Chiles’ lone hit with an infield single in the second inning. Both teams also relied on steady defense.
Chiles right fielder Kyle Taddeo made a diving catch in the fifth inning, and NFC left fielder Collin Harvell made a run-saving, two-out catch in the sixth. NFC second baseman Logan Dungey was also steady on four ground-ball outs.
“We knew it would be a pitchers’ duel,” NFC coach Mike Posey said.
“We didn’t do a good job of swinging the bat. Boomer just threw the fastball by us. The biggest thing is you have to score runs, so we are going to have to fix that.”