By:  J. Daniel Pearson for Positively Osceola

Call the Longhorn baseball team scrappy, call them resilient or even call them the Cardiac Kids, but you can’t call them Regional Champs – at least not yet.

Harmony will try to add that title to their resume on Monday night when they travel to Vero Beach to face the second-seeded Indians (23-4) for the FHSAA Class 7A Region 3 Championship game (7 p.m.).  They earned the right to play in that game on Friday night when they upset top-seeded Jupiter, 10-6, on the road.

It was a stunning victory for Harmony (18-11), who pushed their tournament record to 7-0 on the year despite playing the game without starting pitcher Evan Christ and starting catcher Jose Scrofani.

Harmony coach Heath Williams said that Christ told him during warm-ups that his arm did not feel “right.”  Out of caution, Williams decided not to play Christ and gave the ball to Alexavier Lebron, who was cleared for the first time since breaking his thumb several weeks ago.

Lebron had trouble locating his pitches and could not get out of the first inning, leaving the Longhorns to face one of the best hitting teams in the state for the rest of the game without the services of its top two pitchers.

Fortunately, Harmony’s bats were hot.  

Yathniel Matos went three for four with three runs scored and Isaiah Santiago went two for four with four runs driven in as Harmony scored five runs in the second and posted a four-spot in the fourth to take a 10-3 lead.

Still, Harmony was far from out of the woods.

“They have a strange ball park, where the fences meet at a point in centerfield, 464 feet from home plate.  That makes is a ridiculously large park for a high school field,” Williams said.  “Without our front line pitching available, they were clubbing the ball all over the place.  On a normal field they might have hit four home runs, instead we got some long fly outs and made some key defensive plays that kept us in front.”

Things got tighter when pitcher Ismeal Rivera – Hamrony’s best reliever– was forced out of the game with a hip flexor injury in the sixth.  The key play in the game came in the seventh after Jupiter had scored two runs and had loaded the bases with one out.  Since Harmony had to use starting outfielder Ashton Magorrian to pitch, Williams was forced to use Logan Hogue – a freshman call-up from the junior varsity team – in the outfield.

“They had their best hitter up and he hits absolute bomb to left field,” Williams said.  “We have an inexperienced freshman out there playing in a pressure packed situation.  He simply ran it down and caught the ball at the fence.  We get the next guy to groundout and win the game.”

Williams said the play by Hogue was typical of what has been happening all season for the Longhorns.  

“We have had incredible bad luck with injuries.  We lost three projected starters (Cade Walter, Shawn Brabant, Josue Oquendo) for the season to injuries, have had another half dozen guys miss games with various injuries and now we have no idea whether are three best pitchers are even going to be available for us on Monday,” Williams said.  “But somehow and some way this team just keeps finding a way to win games. “

Another huge obstacle will stand in their way on Monday against Vero Beach.  

Seeded second in the region, the Indians are hitting .348 as a team and are averaging more than eight runs a game.  The lineup includes a trio of outstanding hitters in Jace Ramos (.395, 33 runs, 22 RBI), Finley Holmes (.464, 33 Runs), and Chase Wilson (.450, 31 RBI and 13 extra base hits).   They also feature three top pitchers, including ace Cody Morgan (10-1, 1.24 ERA) and Ashton Welmiller (4-0, 0.75 ERA).  Sebastian Dimitroff is 5-1 with a 1.48 ERA and would also be available after pitching just four innings in a 15-0 run-rule win over Wellington on Friday night. 

It’s just another challenge that Williams said his team would embrace.   “Vero Beach is extremely talented and has put together and outstanding season,” Williams said.  “But these are the type of teams we have been playing all yes..  Yes, we have lost three starters for the season to injuries.  Yes, our pitching staff is banged up and we don’t even know who we are going to start. And yes, we will be significant underdogs Monday.   But here is also what I know.  This team has a ton of heart and courage and confidence.  Who’s to say we can’t put one more game together and beat another great team?   These guys have been doing the unexpected all season long, so nothing would surprise me.”

A Longhorn win Monday would be the first regional title in school history and would put them into the Final Four in Mt. Myers next week.