TALLAHASSEE, FLA. (franchisesportsonline.net) – Pitchers Colby Maroney and Nick Piazza combined for six shutout innings, Jordan Latimer had a 2 RBI double, and the JPII Panthers beat North Florida Christian for the first time in school history 4-3.
“The boys played really well,” JPII coach Ken Silvestri said. “They were alert, awake, and had a lot of fun. They’ve been practicing really well, but we just haven’t been playing games very well. I just keep telling them, if you ever play a game like you practice, good things are going to happen. They played today like they’ve been practicing.”
Maroney and NFC pitcher Brandon Schmidt each held their opponents scoreless for the first two innings of play. Jacob Stavres hit a single for the Panthers on their second at bat of the game. However, Travis Ray, Matthew Dickey, and Trey Pearce combined for a 5-4-3 double play, closing out the inning for the Eagles.
NFC (15-5, 3-2) was aggressive on the bases right from the start. JPII was prepared, though. Brian Woodend tagged Pearce out while stealing third to close out the first inning. Latimer then tagged out Travis Ray while stealing home for the third out of the second.
Things picked up at the top of third. Austin Hall and Woodend both walked on base for the Panthers (8-11, 3-3). Piazza then stepped up to the plate with two outs and hit a deep single, driving in Hall for the first run of the game.
Down 1-0 at the bottom of the third, the Eagles were quick to put runners on base. Meigs Lamb walked to start off the inning and Brandon Walker singled on NFC’s third at bat. Walker then stole second base, placing runners on first and third with only one out. Maroney remained calm on the mound. He struck out Pearce for out number two. Then, Piazza caught a deep fly ball in center field, getting JPII out of the inning.
“I’ve been struggling the last two starts,” Maroney said. “But it’s my last year, so I came out pretty determined to beat them at their home.”
Maroney would hold the Eagles scoreless until the bottom of the fifth inning. After Piazza drove home Taylor Janicki at the top of the inning to give the Panthers a 2-0 lead, NFC’s bats came alive.
With two outs to start off the inning, Walker and Steven Velez got on base for the Eagles. Pearce then hit a deep double, driving them both home. At the next at bat, right after Piazza came to the mound to relieve Maroney, Matthew Dickey drove Pearce home with a single, giving NFC a 3-2 lead.
JPII was quick to respond. Hall, Woodend, and Stavres loaded the bases for the Eagles. With two outs, Latimer knocked the ball between third base and left field, driving home Hall and Woodend, which gave the Panthers a 4-3 lead.
It almost wasn’t enough.
At the bottom of the seventh, NFC loaded the bases with two outs. In a long last at-bat, Piazza caught Ray swinging, giving JPII the win, and making history.
The Panthers play Godby at home tomorrow, before traveling to take on Aucilla Christian on Monday. NFC will play Wakulla on Saturday and Chiles on Tuesday. Both Eagles games will be at home.