By:  J. Daniel Pearson
For Positively Osceola

Senior Carlos Negron pitched six and one-third innings of one hit baseball and Jansel Nieves broke up a 2-2 tie in the bottom of the sixth with a two-run single as Osceola advanced in the FHSAA 7A baseball playoffs with a 6-3 win over Wellington on Wednesday night.

It was spectacular outing by Negron, a left-handed senior, as he entered the game in a difficult situation.  Wellington chased Kowboy starter John Rodriguez from the game in the very first inning, giving up three hits and two walks as the Warriors took a 2-0 lead and had the bases loaded.

Negron would enter the game and strike out Riley Gonzalez to end the threat.  He would then retire 15 of the next 16 batters he faced – striking out seven during that stretch; while allowing just two walks.

“Tremendous composure by Carlos,” coach Scott Birchler said.  “While he was fantastic the whole game, the one out he got for us in the first inning was huge for us.  If they get another hit or two, it certainly would have changed the whole complexion of the game.  Being down 2-0 in the first inning is a lot different than being down four or five runs.”

While Negron was keeping Wellington in check, Osceola was chipping away.  

Nick Palmi would cut the deficit to one on the first pitch he saw in the bottom of the first by slamming a home run over the right-centerfield wall.   “Another big moment for us,” Birchler said.  “We cut the gap to one on the first pitch and when that happens, I think it calmed everything down for us.”

Osceola would tie the game in the third.  Terry Cruz opened the inning with a walk, went to second on a Palmi single and both runners moved up on Jason Ramos’ sacrifice bunt.  Luis Rodriguez would strike out, but Cruz would race home on a wild pitch by Blake Anderson.

The score would stay tied until the bottom of the sixth.  With one out, Rodriguez would walk and Yamil Santiago would single sharply to left field.  Both runners would move up on a wild pitch and Nieves lined a two-run single to center off relief pitcher Paul Parent to make it 4-2.  Cruz followed with a bunt single and Palmi doubled to the right center gap to score Nieves.  Cruz would then score on a wild pitch as Osceola built a 6-2 advantage.

Through no fault of Negron, Wellington made it a game in the top of the seventh.  

With one out, the Kowboys botched a bunt attempt as Riley Gonzalez reached on an error.  Russell Wilson would reach on an infield single and Danny Villafane’s ground ball to short skipped off of Palmi’s glove for a run-scoring error.  Negron would walk Felix Quintero on five pitches to load the bases; which brought the potential go-ahead run to the plate.

But Negron responded by striking out Demarzo on a 2-2 curveball and then got Humberto Caldera to fly out to left field to end the game. For the contest, Negron struck out eight, walked two and allowed just one hit.  “My fastball in was working tonight and I was able to finish them on changeups and curves away,” Negron said.  “I just tried to approach the game one hitter at a time and not worry about the situation.”

The win lifted the Kowboys to 16-9 on the season and sends Osceola into Saturday’s Region 3 semifinal game at top seeded Park Vista (Lake Worth).  The Cobras are 21-3-1 this season and eliminated Centennial 9-1 in their quarterfinal game Wednesday.

“They ended our season last year in the regionals and frankly they are probably a better team this year,” Birchler noted.  “It will be a challenge playing them on the road, but we go down there and give our best effort.” A Kowboys win would put them in a regional final against the winner of the Jupiter/Vero Beach game next Tuesday.

In other regional action on Wednesday, second-seeded Jupiter (16-7) got a run in the bottom of the eighth inning for a 3-2 walk-off extra inning win over Harmony (14-13).  

Sam Castillo’s RBI single in the sixth inning keyed a two-run rally as Harmony overcame a 2-0 deficit.  But an unearned run with two out in the bottom of the eighth gave Jupiter the win.  Senior Caden Scarborough was outstanding in his final game for the Longhorns.  He pitched six and a third innings, allowing just four hits and two runs; while walking just one and striking out 10.