The varsity baseball teams for Steinbrenner and Gaither high schools each completed impressive seasons, with both teams capturing state titles.
Steinbrenner took its first baseball state title with a 9-4 win over Oviedo Hagerty in the Class 8A Florida High School Athletic Association state championship game on May 21 at JetBlue Park in Fort Myers.
The Warriors (27-5) trailed Hagerty 4-1 in the sixth inning before erupting for an eight-run seventh inning, thanks to timely run production from junior Patrick Morris, and seniors Ryan Russell and Drew Burkhart.
On the mound, Morris and fellow junior Dave Crawford combined to pitch seven innings, giving up four runs (two earned).
The Warriors entered the state championship game on a 13-game winning streak, with their last defeat being a 7-3 road loss against Hillsborough High on March 29. For next season, the Warriors lose eight seniors, but return ace right-handed pitcher CJ Van Eyk (12 wins, 0.77 ERA, 130 strikeouts in 91 innings). Morris, the team’s top power hitter with four home runs and 11 doubles in 2016, also returns.
Gaither’s team prevailed in a nail-biting 2-1 extra-inning game over Venice High, securing the program’s first Class 7A FHSAA state championship.
The Cowboys (20-9) held a 1-0 into the third inning before Venice tied the game 1-1. The Gaither offense finally got a spark in the eighth inning when leadoff hitter Jose Cadenas singled, and eventually scored the winning run on a Venice throwing error. Gaither senior pitchers David Masuck and Josh Bobrowski held Venice’s offense in check, combining to allow just one run on seven hits (no extra base hits), and one walk.
The Cowboys lose eight seniors from this year’s squad, including ace lefty Gavin Gillespie (0.79 ERA, 89 strikeouts in 88 and two-thirds pitched). However, second-year coach Nelson North will have the luxury of getting back five of the team’s top six hitters in 2017, including Cadenas, Chipper Holland, Kenny Rodriguez, Danny Gutcher and AJ Drisdom.
Steinbrenner and Gaither met once during the regular season, with the Warriors defeating the Cowboys 7-3 on March 31 at Gaither High.
Published June 1, 2016