Fort Myers tops Island Coast to claim district baseball title
Despite loss, Gators move on in state tourney
Green Wave starting pitcher Zach Root got stronger as the game progressed and tossed a complete game in an impressive outing.
“It’s awesome. It’s a great thing to happen,” said Fort Myers head coach Kyle Burchfield on ending Fort Myers’ district championship drought. “These guys have been working hard all year long.”
The Greenies (21-5) wasted no time getting on the scoreboard in the first inning, being patient and taking advantage of Gator starting pitcher Kevin Martinez, who walked three batters (one with the bases loaded) and hit another in the frame. The run scored on a walk, plus a sac fly from Root gave the home team a 2-0 lead early on.
The Gators (20-7) evened the score in the top half of the third thanks to a Root baulk with Aiden Cecil on third and a productive RBI groundout from Eddie Bo Rodriguez that scored Kevin Rodriguez.
Island Coast’s Noah Petrovich was solid in relief of Martinez, working 2 1/3 innings, allowing one unearned run. That run came in the bottom of the fourth and gave the Greenies a lead they would not relinquish.
Senior Max Archbold singled with one out and reached second on a wild pitch. Brighton Edsell then put one in play to third that resulted in an error and Archbold came in to score.
Root allowed just one hit and two baserunners to reach after the two runs he allowed in the third. Over seven innings, the lefty surrendered just three hits, one walk, one hit batsman and struck out seven.
“The big things for Zach that was key is that he honestly got a little angry especially after those two runs came in,” Burchfield said. “Once those two runs came in he said, ‘No. This is not OK. I will not accept this.’ He started throwing harder. He started to hit his spots better. Everything was better. That was a really good job by Zach.”
Fort Myers would tack on three insurance runs in the fifth via a two-RBI single Keaton Kenworthy and RBI groundout from Jake Wilson.
“Our hitting has been great all year long,” Burchfield said. “We’ve come in clutch multiple games and just like tonight, our hitting was fantastic. We were patient at the plate but also aggressive at the same time.”
Island Coast head coach Clint Montgomery said his players didn’t put themselves in the best position to win a game with some sloppy defense and too many free passes.
A big issue for the Gator pitching staff was the inability to throw off-speed pitches for strikes.
“That’s basically like getting in a fight with one arm, you’re not going to have good results, especially against a good hitting team like Fort Myers,” Montgomery said.
Despite falling short in the district final, Island Coast’s season will continue into the 5A State Tournament. The Gators travel to St. Petersburg for a match-up with Northeast High School (18-6) this Thursday night.
The Gators will have their ace on the bump and hope the have the bats rolling, which Montgomery said have been a bit flat since some rain delays and a lack of being able to practice on their own field.
“The biggest thing for us next game is we’re going to have Kevin Rodriguez on the mound and that changes our whole team,” Montgomery said. “If we can make the plays behind him we’ll be alright.
“We’ve got to swing it a little better. We’re going to challenge ourselves in (batting practice) to get better.”
Fort Myers will host Osceola (18-6) in its opening round game Thursday at 7 p.m. as well.
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