Kowboys play at Timber Creek Saturday; Celebration falls in bottom of the 7th at Hagerty

Andrew Fernandez singled home Brett Birchler in the bottom of the eighth inning to give the Osceola Kowboys a thrilling, 1-0 extra innings win over Winter Park in a Region 9A-2 quarterfinal playoff game Wednesday.
 
The win sends the Kowboys (17-5) to Saturday's regional semifinal at Timber Creek, who also won 1-0 Wednesday over Ridge.
 
Birchler started the winning rally by getting hit by a pitch to open the inning. He went to second on a Isaiah Rivas infield single off reliever Asher Comas and then third on a bunt single by Derik Diaz. Fernandez then delivered the game winner with a sharp single to center.
 
“That was a tremendously well played game,” Osceola  Coach Scott Birchler said. “Both starting pitchers were outstanding and both teams made a lot of big defensive plays. It seems pitching and defense dominate during the playoffs and that was certainly the case tonight. We were fortunate to stay patient and take advantage of a couple of infield hits in that last inning.”
 
Neither team could score in regulation but both had chances.   
 
Winter Park loaded the bases on walks in the sixth but Kowboys starter Hamilton Martinez pitched out of the jam by getting Gaines Cash to groundout to second.
 
Osceola put a man on third with just one out in the sixth, but Winter Park starter Jack Campbell made a sensational stop on Kenniel Carrion’s hard hit ground ball up the middle and then got Jorge Rivera to fly out to center to end that threat.
 
With two outs in the eighth, Winter Park’s Adrien Lucre just missed a home run by doubling off the top of the right field fence.  But following an intentional walk, Carrion — who came in to relieve Martinez to start the inning — induced Charles Zollar to bounce out to second.
 
Both starting pitchers were strong. Campbell allowed just two hits and struck out eight in seven-plus innings. Hamilton also worked seven innings, allowing no runs on four hits with five walks and seven strikeouts.
 
“Realistically, I didn’t think we were going to have that much trouble getting our offense going, but credit Winter Park and Campbell,” Birchler added. “He’s a crafty left-hander who kept us off-balanced all night.  The few times we got guys on they would make a good play to end the inning.”
 
But Birchler could say the same thing about his starter Martinez and his defense. With Winter Park runners on first and second in the second inning, right fielder Frankie Santaniello made a nice catch on Davis Massingale’s line drive and Martinez got a big strikeout to end that inning. In the sixth Carrion gunned down Massingale from deep center as he tried to stretch a single into a double and Martinez struck out Wilfredo Santiago with the potential go-ahead run in scoring position in the seventh.

STORM STANDS STRONG AGAINST HAGERTY, FALLS IN WALKOFF: In a Region 8A-3 quarterfinal Wednesday in Oviedo, district runner-up Celebration tied Hagerty 2-2 before the Huskies notched a run in the bottom of the seventh to win, 3-2.

The Storm, who have qualified for the playoffs two of the last three years, finished the season 10-11.