By: J. Daniel Pearson
For Positively Osceola
Photo Source: Erika Booth
It was a busy night last Thursday as six teams from four county schools met for district crowns in three different sports at the same time. In the end, Osceola baseball, Harmony softball and Celebration boy’s volleyball will be moving on to state competition next week as district champions; while three others teams were ranked high enough to advance as at-large, non-district champions.
Here is the recap of the action:
Class 7A, District 9 Baseball
5/1 Quarterfinals: Celebration 9, Poinciana 3
5/2 Semifinals: Osceola 11, Celebration 1
Harmony 9, Tohopekaliga 1
5/4 Championship: Osceola 3, Harmony 2
Championship Recap: Given the budding baseball rivalry between the two schools and the fact that Harmony defeated Osceola in three prior games this season, Thursday’s 7A, District 9 championship game held a lot of promise of an excitement as two quality teams were fighting for a championship and bragging rights in the county. It did not disappoint. Osceola’s Jensel Nieves delivered a sacrifice fly in the bottom of the sixth and senior Carlos Negron pitched four innings of scoreless relief, as the Kowboys narrowly defeated the Longhorns 3-2.
It started a pitching duel in the beginning between Osceola junior Nick Palmi and Harmony senior Caden Scarborough. Osceola used a single, a couple of walks and a groundout to forge a 1-0 lead in the second, but Harmony answered with two runs in the third to take a 2-1 lead. The score remained that way until the top of the fourth, when Osceola’s Raul Ramirez tied it with a solo home run.
“It was a great pitching performance from both starters,” Osceola coach Scott Birchler said. “Caden is a terrific pitcher and did a great job of keeping our bats in check.”
Controversy erupted in the top of fifth when Luis Vargas’ bases loaded shot down the line was ruled fair and cleared the bases as Osceola went on top 5-2. After a Harmony protest, the umpires got together and then changed the call to foul, where Vargas would strike out and the Longhorns would keep the lead. “When something like that happens, it could have been a huge momentum shift in their favor,” Birchler said. “But give the umpires credit, they got together and made the correct call and that was the most important thing.”
In the bottom of the sixth, John Rodriguez doubled to open the inning and was sacrificed to third. Nieves would then deliver the game-winning sacrifice fly and Negron shut the door in the seventh as Osceola held on for the win.
“After the craziness of the inning before and after we retired in the sixth, I told the guys we needed one run and three outs to win the game,” Birchler added. “We were able to do just that. We got the big hit, moved the runner over and got the sacrifice fly and then Carlos finished it off. When we are able to execute the little things well, we can be a pretty good team.”
Scarborough worked four and two-thirds innings, struck out nine and allowed just three singles for Harmony, who fell to 14-12 with the loss. Negron struck out four for allowed four hits in his winning relief stint for the Kowboys (15-9). Harmony coach Heath Williams noted that “For the first time this season, I think my young team had a case of the nerves,” he said. “But overall, I thought we played a solid game and had a good regular season given our youth and the amount of serious injuries we had all year.”
What’s Next: As district champion and the #4 seed in the region, Osceola secures a home game for the regional quarterfinals – where they will play fifth-seeded Wellington (15-8). A Kowboy win would put them in the regional semifinals on Saturday against the winner of the Park Vista (#1 seed) vs. Centennial (#8 game). As the number seven ranked team in Region 3, Harmony (14-12) earns an at-large bid to the regionals, where they will travel to face #2 seed and District 11 Champion Jupiter on Wednesday. If they manage to get by the Warriors, they would draw the winner of the Santaluces vs. Vero Beach game in the regional semifinals.
County Notes: The baseball season ended for the other six public schools in district play this past week…Osceola’s win over Harmony gave the Kowboys their 8th district championship in the Scott Birchler era…Now in its fifth season, Tohopekaliga (12-7) continued to make strides under head coach Nikko Martel…The Tigers set a school record for wins this year, in posting their second consecutive winning season…Martel is scheduled to receive the coveted Mike Fields Coach of the Year covering all varsity sports this week.
Class 7A, District 10 Softball
5/1 Quarterfinals: Poinciana 19, Celebration 1
5/2 Semifinals: Harmony 9, Poinciana 6
Osceola 11, Tohopekaliga 1
5/4 Championship: Harmony 6, Osceola 1
Championship Recap: It was almost a direct reversal of the April 12 meeting between these two schools when Osceola gathered 12 hits and pounded out an 11-4 win over the Longhorns in the Orange Belt Conference Tournament semifinals. This time, it was the Longhorn bats doing the damage as senior trio of Amanda Whelan (2 for 4, 2 RBI, Triple), Ireland Sibbitt (2 for 4, 2 runs scored), and Shayne Dumford (1 for 3 RBI) led the way as Harmony pounded out nine hits in a 6-1 win over top-seed and host Osceola.
While the Harmony bats were doing their damage, sophomore pitcher Lindsay Green was allowing just two hits – singles to Kowboys seniors Elary Laboy and Gabriella Avila. Green struck out eight and walked four in the game as her teammates staked her to a 3-0 lead after two innings.
What’s Next: Although a #2 overall seed in the region, Jupiter lost its district championship game and must travel to Harmony to face the Longhorns on Thursday night (May 11) beginning at 7 p.m. St. Cloud (15-10) got some good news on Friday, as they held on to a top 8 regional seed and gained an at-large bid to regionals despite losing to Boone in last week’s district semifinals. The Bulldogs will travel to #4 Centennial for a Thursday quarterfinal matchup.
County Notes: Poinciana never had a winning season in school history, before football coach Randy Beeken was asked to take over the program before the start of the 2022 season…Beeken won more games in his first year, finishing with a 10-12 record, than Poinciana did in their previous 13 years (10-170-1)…Under Beeken, Poinciana posted their first winning season in school history (14-9) and advanced to the district semifinals…Despite winning an OBC title and posting a 12-10 overall record, Osceola misses the regional tournament as an at-large selection by just one spot – finishing 9th in the rankings behind Palm Beach Central (8th).
Class 1A, District 10 Boys’ Volleyball
5/1 Quarterfinals: Poinciana def. Harmony (3-1), 25-16, 23-25, 25-20, 25-18
St. Cloud def. Liberty (3-0), 25-18, 25-13, 25-16
5/2 Semifinals: Celebration def. Poinciana (3-0), 25-15, 25-12, 25-19
Tohopekaliga def. St. Cloud (3-0), 25-22, 25-22, 25-19
5/4 Championship: Celebration def. Tohopekaliga (3-0), 25-16, 25-14, 25-13
Championship Recap: As they did against county opposition in the regular season, Celebration dominated in the district playoffs recording a 25-16, 25-14, 25-13 straight set win over Tohopekaliga. The Storm were never threatened in any of the games – winning each one by at lead nine points.
The senior trio of Darion Graham (16 kills, .438 hitting percentage), Victor Binet (6 kills, 2 blocks) and Julio Tovar (6 kills, 2 aces) led the way for the Storm; while sophomore Oliver Binet had 35 assists. Celebration (18-9) will take a five-match winning streak into regionals.
What’s Next: Celebration secured the number two overall regional seed for the playoffs, which means they could host the first two rounds of regionals. The Storm (18-9) open regional play with a quarterfinal game at home on Tuesday night at 7 p.m. against seventh-seeded Windermere – a team they defeated 3 game to 1 just two weeks ago. A win would put them at home on Friday night against the winner of the #3 Dr. Phillips vs. #6 Team and Sports Management Leadership School.
Tohopekaliga (17-9) advances as an at-large and has garnered a #5 seed and will play at Horizon on Tuesday night. “Although we did not play very well in either of our two matchups with Celebration, we’re excited to advance to regionals as an at-large and we have a favorable first-round draw,” Tigers Head Coach Eric Capestany said. “We’ve had a record breaking season and hopefully we can make a run at regionals.”
County Notes: Pedro Davila’s Celebration squad went 7-0 against county opposition this year without dropping a game (20-0)…Although St. Cloud finished the season with a 9-16 record, it should be noted that it came against an incredibly difficult schedule…Twelve of those 16 losses came against teams with a combined 137-59 record (70%), most of which are headed to regionals.
THIS WEEK’S REGIONAL SCHEDULE
Tuesday, May 9
BVB: Windermere at Celebration, Class 1A Region 3 Quarterfinal, 7 p.m.
BVB: Tohopekaliga at Horizon, Class 1A, Region 3 Quarterfinal, 7 p.m.
Thursday, May 11
SOFT: Jupiter at Harmony, Class 7A, Region 3 Quarterfinal, 7 p.m.
SOFT: St. Cloud at Centennial, Class 7A, Region 3 Quarterfinal, 7 p.m.
BASE: Wellington at Osceola, Class 7A, Region 3 Quarterfinal, 7 p.m.
Harmony at Jupiter, Class 7A, Region 3 Quarterfinal, 7 p.m.
Friday, May 12
BVB: Class 1A, Region 3 Semifinals, Teams and Locations TBA
Saturday, May 13
BASE: Class 7A, Region 3 Semifinals, Teams and Locations TBA