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Island Coast swamps Bonita Springs in 4A regional baseball opener, 10-0

Gators travel to Fort Lauderdale to take on Cardinal Gibbons Saturday

By CJ HADDAD - | May 12, 2022

Island Coast junior Keivn Martinez pitching May 11 in the FHSAA 4A-Region 4 quarterfinals. He pitched the Gators into the state final Monday night. CJ HADDAD

The Island Coast High School baseball team cruised to a 10-0, five-inning victory over Bonita Springs in the opening round of the FHSAA 4A State Tournament Wednesday night.

The Gators (20-7) took down the Bullsharks (19-7) for the third time this year, including a 6-4 win for the 4A-13 District Championship last week.

Island Coast junior Kevin Martinez tossed five scoreless innings, allowing just four hits and zero walks, while striking out four.

The run support came early and often, as the Gators put up four in the first inning and another in the second.

“We talked to our guys about how tough it is to beat a team three times in a row, especially against a good team such as Bonita Springs,” said Island Coast head coach Clint Montgomery. “We’ve been focused and want to make sure we play the game of baseball. We never try to play our opponent, or make ourselves play (any other way).

“We did a pretty good job tonight. Hit some balls fairly hard and, that’s who we are – a team with a little bit of power, and we took advantage of that tonight a couple of times.”

Leadoff man Eddie Boe Rodriguez got things going for Island Coast, leading off the bottom half of the first with a single. Martinez then followed that up with a double, and Rodriguez scored after a hard grounder to short off the bat of Jake Mueller was unable to be fielded cleanly. Bonita Springs was able to turn a double play with runners on the corners, but Martinez came home on the play.

With the bases clear and two outs, Jordi Guerrero was hit by a pitch, Davin Hickman and Tommy Bryne walked, and Jake Billings made the Bullsharks pay with a two-RBI, two-out single.

Mueller came around to score in the second when Hickman drew a bases-loaded walk.

The Island Coast bats stayed dormant in the third, but exploded again in the fourth. Mueller, an Alabama-commit, nearly drove one out to deep center on a ball that one-hopped the fence for a double. Cleanup hitter Emilio Gonzalez needed just one pitch to expand the Gator lead, as he took a fastball over the right field fence for a two-run homer.

“They’ve been doing a good job for us,” Montgomery said of Mueller and Gonzalez. “But every game is different, and every pitcher is different. They did a good job tonight, but we’ve got to put it together again Saturday.”

While Island Coast was busy scoring runs, Martinez was busy making quick work of the Bullsharks’ bats. The righty never faced more than four batters in a single inning, and had his fastball and breaking ball working in the right situations.

“At the beginning of the game I felt I was a little slow on velocity, and my mechanics didn’t feel smooth, but around the middle of the second, start of the third, I started getting into a rhythm and it felt lights-out from there,” Martinez said.

As for the run support on this night, Martinez said, “As the guy on the mound, it’s exciting to see that our lineup is hitting around and scoring. It’s a little bit of a boost up there and keeps me more confident and focused on what I’m supposed to do.”

“He’s been good all year,” Montgomery said of Martinez. “He’s a player of the year candidate and think he’s atop the area in wins and batting average.

“One of the things we felt good about, is we felt if we scored four or five runs, we’d have a really good shot with K-Mart on the mound.”

The Gators finished the job in the bottom of the fifth, as a run came in from third after Guerrero was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded to make it 9-0. Hickman ended things with a hot shot to second that ate up the Bullsharks’ defender, scoring the 10th run and enacting a mercy rule.

Island Coast will travel to Cardinal Gibbons (Fort Lauderdale, 18-9) on Saturday to take on the Chiefs in a FHSAA 4A-Region 4 semifinal at 7 p.m.

“Last year, a lot of these guys took two long road trips in the playoffs …and I think the more times you do this, the easier it becomes,” Montgomery said. “We know (what we have to do) and hopefully go out there and (get the job done).”

— Connect with Associate Sports Editor CJ Haddad on Twitter: @haddad_cj