Even if Sam Keating didn’t have his best stuff Thursday, it still would have caused problems for some of the best teams in the state.
Canterbury (27-1), ranked No. 7 nationally in the MaxPreps Xcellent 25, will hit the road to face St. Petersburg Northside Christian, a 4-1 winner over Evangelical Christian, on Tuesday with a chance to reach its third straight state Final Four.The Canterbury righty and Clemson commit showed as much as he baffled a 21-win Sarasota Out of Door Academy team to push the Cougars to a 2-0 win in a Region 3A-3 semifinal at Swanson Stadium on the campus of Florida Gulf Coast University.
“Sam is our catalyst,” Canterbury coach Frank Turco said. “And when you’re that guy, you’ve got to want the ball.”
After walking the first batter of the game, Keating (9-0) carried a no-hitter deep into the seventh, retiring 20 straight hitters before walking a batter and surrendering a base hit to center field by Nick Saranczak.
Keating admitted he wasn’t at is best in the first three innings. However, he caught fire with two outs in the fourth. ODA cleanup hitter Najee Jacobs hit a towering fly ball to left field in his first at bat that barely stayed in the yard, but Keating blew three pitches past him.
“I tried to fight and stay in there,” said Keating, who finished with five strikeouts. “When you have guys in the field like I do who have your back it’s easy.”
ODA starter Max Munroe didn’t make it easy for the Cougars. Activated for the first time all season two weeks ago after a toe injury kept him out, he surrendered just two hits and one run.
“They really kept us off balance,” Turco said. “We could never just get that big inning.”
ODA’s defense, however, proved to be its undoing.
Munroe walked Tyler Shuck to lead off the fourth and Michael Matter sent a single that just got through the middle of the infield. After a walk to Giovany Lorenzo, Cooper Swanson rolled over on a pitch that ODA second baseman Mason Kolbe appeared ready to turn a double play on, but couldn’t handle the groundball, plating a run.
The Cougar couldn’t do anything more with bases loaded and one out in the frame.
Munroe was lifted after the fifth.
Matter led off the sixth with his second hit of the game and ODA’s struggles in the field continued when shortstop Anthony Squitieri threw away another double play opportunity. A Swanson sacrifice fly to center field made it 2-0.
“We’ve got two freshmen up the middle,” ODA coach Tim Orlosky said. “What’s great about them is they’ve got guts. We don’t expect them to make every play. I’m really proud of the way they played.”
ODA graduates just two seniors off its 21-7 club, giving Orlosky a good feeling it will be playing in more games like this one.