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Chiefs Comeback Late, Then Drop 5A Title Game

Thursday’s 5A state championship was a tale of two teams who were searching for a pitcher that could record the last three outs. Both teams went deep into their bullpens on the second day of the championship series, in what ended up a wild affair.

Cardinal Gibbons scored two runs in the bottom of the seventh to tie the game, but left the bases loaded. That set the stage for Melbourne Central Catholic to score three runs in the eighth and win the state title 6-3.

“For these guys to give up the tying runs in the bottom of the seventh, get out of the bases loaded jam, and then answer with three runs in the eighth is a testament to the character of the team,” said Hustlers Manager Tom Dooley.

Gibbons, having burned their two top pitchers, Tim Manning and Keanu Buerosse in the semifinal, sent Kenny Morgan to the mound in the championship game. The Chiefs received everything they could have expected from the junior, with Morgan going four innings, allowing only one run on three hits.

“I thought Kenny did a great job for us today,” said Gibbons Manager Jason Hamilton. “We were lucky enough to have two guys carry the load for us on the mound all year, but today we needed some other guys to step up, and I thought all our guys did a great job of that today.”

The Hustlers were in a better position with their staff, sending Jackson Taylor to the mound. Taylor had been 7-2 on the mound in 52.2 innings. The senior went 5.1 innings, allowing only one run on three hits.

“Jackson did a great job for us today,” said Dooley. “I did my best to build up the fact that they were the favorites today. I told everyone I talked to that we were the underdogs, and it worked out today because our guys just kept battling.”

Each team scored one run in the fourth, but it was in the sixth that Melbourne appeared to deliver the knockout blow. Zach Beolet drove in the first run of the inning with a double, and then scored on a wild pitch to give the Hustlers a 3-1 lead.

The score remained that way until the bottom of the seventh when the Chiefs, fueled by a rowdy crowd, started their comeback when Kyle Kuramoto was hit by a pitch leading off the inning. Mike Higgons then hit a one-out single. A passed ball put Chiefs on second and third with one out.

Brice Montiel then had his state finals moment when he worked the count before hitting an opposite field single, scoring pinch runner Isaiah Farris and Higgins.

“At first I was nervous,” said Montiel. “But then as I got into the at-bat, I felt more comfortable, and I was able to hit the ball the other way through the hole. I was glad I could come through in that moment.”

The Chiefs proceeded to load the bases before team leader Kevin Hirsch flew out to deep left to end the inning.

“That is the situation you hope for,” said Hamilton. “Kevin has been our leader and one of the top hitters in the county all year. He was aggressive, but I think we all would have been aggressive in that spot with a chance to win a state championship for our team.”

Shea Justin, the Hustlers third pitcher of the game, had escaped the jam.

That led to sophomore Bryce Dalyrmple’s moment in the sun. With the bases loaded in the top of the eighth, Dalyrmple drilled a three-run double, clearing the bases, and setting up the Hustlers for their second state title.

“Once I had two strikes, I knew I had to put it in play,” said Dalyrmple. “I just saw the pitch and hit it. It came off the bat real nice.”

In the bottom of the eighth, Justin, who had thrown 26.1 innings on the year, shut down the Chiefs in order, and the celebration began.

“For him to get out of that bases loaded jam and then go 1-2-3 in the eighth, man that is special,” said Dooley.

The title is the first since Melbourne Central won it all in 2013.

For Gibbons, there will be a time for reflection on what was a tremendous season, but that time was not Thursday.

“I am sure at some point we will look back and reflect on what a great season it’s been,” said Hamilton. “But right now, it’s tough. These guys battled back, and getting this close and coming up short is hurting all of us.”

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