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St. Thomas Exacts Regional Revenge On Coral Glades

Earl Semper races out of the box after hitting a home run in the fifth inning for St. Thomas. [Photo courtesy of Tom Martinez].

Earl Semper had to get Coral Glades back. St. Thomas Aquinas’ third baseman didn’t want to see another Jaguars team celebration on his home field.

“There was no other option,” said Semper, whose Raiders lost to Coral Glades in last year’s regional quarterfinals. “We had to get them back.”

Semper and the Raiders did just that Tuesday. His solo home run to straightaway center field in the fifth capped a 4-0 home win over Coral Glades in an 8A regional quarterfinal.

Prior to his at-bat to lead off the fifth, Semper spoke with Raiders’ leadoff man Isaiah Perry, who told Semper to lay off the curveballs. On 2-0, Semper didn’t miss the fastball.

“I saw two low curveballs and let it go. The fastball came right down the middle,” Semper said. “I didn’t square it up perfectly, but I hit it good. I didn’t feel anything. It’s hard to explain.”

What Semper can explain is how much of a difference a year makes.

“It feels great,” said Semper, who went 2-for-4, with a triple to right field. “We are gelling now. I feel like we can make a run.”

St. Thomas’ run continues next Tuesday, when it will host Atlantic in the regional semifinals.

After a leadoff walk to Chris Valencia to open the second, Andres Antonini delivered a double down the right field line, putting runners at the corners. Valencia scored on a wild pitch to make it 1-0, before Perry’s RBI single to center plated Antonini to give the Raiders a two-run lead at the end of two.

It was more than enough for St. Thomas (21-5).

Coral Glades’ Gustavo Lino begins his swing on a pitch. [Photo courtesy of Tom Martinez].

“I tried to move the runner over, just put the ball in play and get on base. Try not to do too much. Get a short and quick swing on it,” said Antonini, who went 2-for-3, with a run scored. “I knew we were going to fight all the way through.”

The key to success for the Raiders was taking “one pitch at a time, one inning at a time,” Antonini said. “That’s how you win ballgames.”

St. Thomas reliever Jake Buxbaum followed suit. The right-hander pitched two innings in relief of starter James Lochrie, striking out two for the win.

“I was mentally prepared,” Buxbaum said. “I knew I was next in line. My name was called and I got the job done. We all threw strikes, made our pitches and got ground ball outs. That is what we did all night.”

Raiders manager Troy Cameron was happy to see it.

“We get to extend the season,” Cameron said. “It was the game we expected: close. We were fortunate to be on the winning side this time around.”

Gustavo Lino came on in relief for the Jaguars (15-7) with the bases loaded and two outs in the fifth. A strikeout ended the threat to keep it a four-run game.

“Tough game,” Coral Glades manager Joe Franco said. “We’re an inexperienced and young team, but we did a great job. We won 15 games, won the Spring Break Title and represented Coral Glades just how I wanted us to, with class and pride. We’ve got great things going for us moving forward.”

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