Osceola successfully defended its District 9A-5 baseball championship Thursday with a 6-0 win over Davenport Ridge.
The Kowboys (17-5) got six innings of four-hit pitching from sophomore Manuel Lopez, and offensively the team carried the load in a team effort as every player in the lineup got a hit, scored a run or reached base.
"We scored a couple early, chipped away, that's what we have to do," OHS Coach Scott Birchler said. "We left a lot on base (11, including leaving them loaded twice) and we have to get those guys in. We could've broken this open at any time; at the next level, every run counts."
Osceola scored twice in the third and fourth innings. Isaiah Rivas doubled in both innings and came home each time on Andrew Fernandez RBI singles. Frankie Santaniello and Derik Diaz added RBI singles and a sacrifice fly.
From there, Lopez took and kept control on the mound, allowing runners into scoring position in the second, third and fourth innings with one out, but getting key groundouts or, in the fourth, snaring a line drive right back at him two batters after trying to barehand a ground ball that stung him for a couple minutes.
Lopez said he wasn't even sure he'd make the varsity team at the start of the year, let alone start the district championship game and likely a regional playoff game at home next week.
"This is great, this is unbelievable," he said after the game. "All my pitches and everything were working tonight."
Birchler said Lopez, who's now 4-1 with a 0.42 ERA, has earned that role.
"He was very green at the start of the season and has matured into that role. He wants the ball," he said. "He did outstanding tonight."
Birchler said that, as part of a three-team district and beating up on county competition (the Kowboys were undefeated in OBC play), the team's not really sure how good they are yet — but are about to find out Wednesday.
"We're going to get a really good team in here, either Timber Creek or Winter Park," he said. "There's no superstars on this team. We've got great defense and pitching's come around. We lost the first one to Ridge, then had to sweep the rest of the district games to get that No. 1 seed we set as a goal."
The team was hitting .336 as a team coming into Thursday. Catcher Jorge Rivera, who doubled and scored in the sixth, came into Thursday hitting .475., Marlon Sanchez upped his .408 clip with a 2-for-4 night and Rivas upped his average to .404 with his two hits.
"I knew we've have a nice, stout lineup, guys really have stepped up this year," Birchler said.
District 8A-10: After a one-year hiatus, Celebration is back in the regional baseball playoffs after a 5-3 win in Tuesday’s district semifinal at Windermere High.
The Storm (11-9) are scheduled to play the host Wolverines (21-4) in today's (Friday) championship game at 4:30 pm. Windermere defeated Liberty on Wednesday. The Chargers (9-12) made a little noise with a 5-4 win over East River in Monday’s district quarterfinal.
St. Cloud (11-10) scored a 10-4 over Tohopekaliga in Monday’s quarterfinal to reach Tuesday’s matchup with Celebration.
In the District 7A-6 tournament at Viera, Harmony fell to Melbourne, 1-0, ending the Longhorns’ season at 12-13 in Coach Rodney Beatty’s first year there.
In the 6A-10 tournament, Poinciana fell Tuesday to Lake Wales, 11-0.
In the 2A-4 tournament, City of Life Christian fell to the tournament’s No. 1 seed, state-ranked Brevard HEAT, 10-0 on Tuesday. The Warriors earned a spot in that semifinal game after winning a 9-8 nailbiter over Orlando Christian Prep on Monday.
District champions and runners-up will play in regional quarterfinal matchups scheduled for Wednesday; the champions will all host in the first round. Semifinals will be on Saturday, May 18.