You know you’re in Florida when … lightning strikes and the most important high school baseball game in your life starts past your bed time.
Bishop Verot was in this predicament Tuesday when its Class 4A state championship game against Trinity Christian Academy was pushed back from multiple rain and lightning delays at JetBlue Park. Official start time: 10:35. Official delay time: 4 1/2 hours.
The game was going to start regardless of how late it would start, officials said. They had four state semifinal games to play on Wednesday.
The FHSAA called the winner of Miami Westminster Christian-North Florida Christian game final at 8:41 p.m., even though the game was still in the bottom of the sixth inning. The Warriors’ 11th state title, now tied for tops in FHSAA history, had an asterisk beside it.
The delays weren’t much comfort for Bishop Verot supporters, either. They had to deal with this same situation a year ago in the state semifinals.
“I’m staying until 9:30 and then I’m taking these little guys home,” said Michele Vocu, a science teacher at Bishop Verot whose state championship encouragement had a certain limit, mostly time.
The lightning struck at 6:05 p.m. during the sixth inning of the Class 3A championship between the Warriors and Eagles, with Westminster Christian up 7-2. After 21/2 hours, the FHSAA didn’t want to wait much longer.
Neither would many more fans from Bishop Verot. Florida, as it happened, had some very reasonable curfew laws for teenagers.
Jess McLean, for example, was a 16-year-old junior who drove to the game. She couldn’t be on the road at 11 p.m., so she was out of the stadium by 10 p.m.
“It just upsetting that I won’t be here to see this,” she said.
Things weren’t much better for the 17-year-olds, either. They couldn’t be on the roads at 1 a.m., which meant that they likely wouldn’t see the last innings of the state title game … likely to take place early Wednesday morning.
Students who had to go to school the next morning were worried about detention. Show up late to school, junior Henrick Seibert said, and you would get no free passes from teachers.
“They have to wake up, too,” Seibert said. “They have no mercy.”
Not the baseball players, though. If their game lasted until 2 a.m., they would only have to be at school by third period.
The weather defeated much of the spirit that showed up to support the Vikings. Hundreds of supporters were dressed in gold in black, in bandanas and face paint and ball caps.
When the weather eased up for a moment near 8 p.m., hundreds galloped over to the front row seats resigned behind home plate.
Minutes later, when another lightning strike hit, they were ushered back out to the concourse for another delay.
Marty Ebenger had to be in the office by 6:30 in the morning. He said he was staying anyway, no doubt a nod to his alma mater of ’85.
“I once stayed until 1:30 in the morning in the old Miami Hurricanes stadium,” Ebenger said. “This isn’t too bad.”
Sam Greider, a senior who was already done with school, had different thoughts, though.
“Good for them if they win,” he said. “I feel sorry for them if they lose, but I won’t be here to see it.”
But what about school pride, Luke Kane said!
“I don’t feel bad,” Greider said.
Anthony Cecere’s football coach wouldn’t be happy if he was out at all hours of the night, so he was leaving if the game didn’t start by 10:30. He had a spring football game Wednesday. Plus, he said, he was cheering for the Vikings last year when the same thing happened in the state semifinals.
Reggie Snell remembers that game, too. The father of two said he stayed until 1 a.m. a year ago.
He was giving Tuesday a deadline of 10:30. If it didn’t start by then, he was out of there. He had to get up to work tomorrow morning, too!
But not Kurt Prey. Even if he wanted to leave, he couldn’t. He drove the bus.
The Bishop Verot science teacher, who had been a driver for the last eight years, said he would be at JetBlue Park as late as the team would need to be there.
He just hoped it wouldn’t be like that football game two years ago, when the Vikings drove to Lemon Bay, waited two hours in the gymnasium following lightning strikes, then drove home when officials determined maybe it wasn’t such a good idea to play a football game.
“We didn’t get back until after midnight,” he said. “But what do you expect? This is Florida weather.”