It certainly stung.
The Tate Aggies (25-5) felt the pain of their first loss since April 14, paired with elimination from the FHSAA playoffs after a 6-2 defeat from St. John’s Creekside on Tuesday night.
The game marked the Aggies’ first trip to the regional finals since 2005 and they certainly showed they deserved to be there.
It was the final note of a very successful season, in which the Aggies captured a District 1-7A championship, two tournament championships (Aggie Classic, Ocoee tournament) and finished as regional runner up.
“I’m just so proud of my team and very proud of how they performed — all year,” Tate coach Greg Blackmon said, at the conclusion of his 13th year as head coach. “They are a special group of guys and I hate to see them go.
“I told ‘em: ‘Look where we are. I know it’s tough — you don’t like it and I don’t like it, but look where we are. Look where you took this program.’ That senior class is unbelievable.”
The Aggies were out-hit by the Knights 11-8, and committed just one error compared to Creekside’s clean slate.
Creekside’s Mitch Champion had a scoreless streak of 28 innings snapped by the Aggies, but he still picked up six strikeouts and a win on Tuesday night.
“I think he (Champion) made pitches when he had to — some of our guys struggled with him but we still had opportunities to score,” Blackmon said. “We just couldn’t get a big hit, or we would hit it right at them, or they (Creekside) made a good play. We played our hearts out but it just didn’t work. It just wasn’t meant to be and that’s the game of baseball.”
Creekside will make its third trip to the state semifinals in the seven-year history of the school.
“It’s so hard to get to this point,” Creekside coach Luke Marabell said. “Everyone is good at this point, no team gets lucky for two games in the playoffs. Tate is a very, very talented team — definitely one of the best teams we’ve played all year. Gotta tip your hat to guys like that, they never quit.”
The Aggies raced out of the gates in the top of the first, before stranding two runners and allowing one run in the bottom half of the inning.
The Aggies then plated runs in the third and the fifth innings, but the Knights answered the call with a run of their own in both innings to take a 3-2 lead
In the sixth, the Knights got all the separation they needed by adding three more runs.
“Mitch (Champion) was a factor in the win,” Marabell said. “He kept them (Tate) off balance, but they hit him a few times. If they would’ve got to our bullpen, who knows what would’ve happened.”
Creekside will face Venice on May 19 in the 7A state semis.