Caden Scarborough escaped a bases loaded and no out situation in the sixth inning and then pitched a perfect seventh inning to lead the Harmony Longhorns to the 2023 Orange Belt Conference baseball championship with a 5-4 win over top-seeded Osceola on Friday night.
The win capped a perfect week for the third-seeded Longhorns (8-8), who earned a trip to the championship by beating Liberty, 2-1 in extra innings, in the quarterfinals and then upended second-seeded Tohopekaliga in Wednesday’s semifinal by a 6-1 score.
Harmony got off to a fast start in the championship.
With two outs and no one on base, the Longhorns touched Osceola starter John Rodriguez for four consecutive hits – including RBI singles from Jhon Peralta and Iziah Santiago to take a 2-0 lead.
They would extend the lead to 4-0 in the second with three more hits as Yathniel Matos and Samuel Castillo delivered run-scoring singles. All four RBI for the Longhorns in the first two innings came from underclassmen. Harmony was playing without its top player Cade Walter, who is recovering from a knee injury, started four juniors, three sophomores and a freshman in the game.
“We’ve had trouble hitting all season but tonight we barreled up some balls, particularly early in the game,” Longhorn coach Heath Williams said. “A lot of that came from some younger guys stepping up and contributing and the fast start played a key part in the win.”
Osceola managed to cut the lead to 4-2 in the bottom of the third on a two-run single by Jason Ramos. But Harmony got one back in the top of the fourth, taking advantage of two Osceola errors to plate an unearned run.
The Kowboys put runners on second and third with one out in their fourth, but could manage only one run on Nick Palmi’s RBI sacrifice fly that made it a 5-3 game.
Osceola would threaten in the sixth.
Jansel Nieves opened the inning with a walk, Terry Cruz singled and the Kowboys would load the bases with no outs when Palmi reached on a bad-hop infield single off Harmony reliever Ismael Rivera. Scarborough relieved but was called for a balk that scored Nieves and then would walk Ramos to again load the bases with no outs.
But that would be the extent of the damage. The senior right-hander would strike out Louis Rodriguez on a 3-2 pitch and then would induce Raul Ramirez to ground out into a 4-6-3 double play to end the inning. “We had our chances all night,” Osceola coach Scott Birchler said. “But we just couldn’t get that one big hit when we needed it. Credit them too, however. They made some outstanding defensive plays on some hard hit balls.”
For the game, Osceola out-hit Harmony 9-8 and also drew five walks, but left 10 men on base, hit into two double plays and went one for 10 with runners in scoring position.
After getting out of the jam in the sixth, Scarborough retired the Kowboys in order in the seventh on three consecutive ground balls to end the game.
Although it was second win of the season for the Longhorns over the Kowboys (10-6), it certainly was not the last time the two teams will meet in 2023. They are scheduled to play a regular season game at Osceola next Friday night and under a new district alignment, both teams were placed in Class 7A, District 9 with fellow county schools Celebration, Tohopekaliga and Poinciana – meaning a fourth meeting in early May is also likely.
“I wish we could take these two wins and call it a season against Osceola, but we know we are going to see them again – both in the regular season and probably districts,” Williams said with a laugh. “They are a really outstanding team and we know they will be looking for some payback.”
In Friday’s third place game, Celebration (9-4) defeated Poinciana by a 10-2 score. Cody Bergeron, Javier Alcantara and EJ Rivera each drove in two runs; while Bergeron and Jesus Torres combined on a three hitter in the Storm win.
2023 OBC Baseball Tournament
Osceola 15, Gateway 0
Tohopekaliga 10, Poinciana 1
St. Cloud 13, Celebration 10
Harmony 2, Liberty 1 (8 Innings)
Osceola 10, St. Cloud 0
Harmony 6, Tohopekaliga 1
Finals – Friday at Poinciana
3rd Place: Celebration 10, Poinciana 2
Championship: Harmony 5, Osceola 4