Nova Uses 10-Run Third To Take Down Fort Lauderdale
The Nova Titans started off the third week of the high school baseball season with a convincing 16-5 win over the Fort Lauderdale Flying L’s on Monday night in a game that lasted just five innings.
Sometimes, it takes just one bad inning for a game to get out of hand. Disaster struck for the L’s in the third inning when 10 runs came across to score, all with no outs on the board. A pair of errors didn’t help Fort Lauderdale left-hander Mason Molter get out of it, but neither did the five walks and hit batter in the inning. The dagger came from Nova right fielder Nick Evans in the form of a three-run home run over the left field wall.
“I only had one last year and I had one my freshman year,” Evans said. “I know I have (the power). In practice, in scrimmages, I piece balls. In game time, sometimes I overthink. But today – really on Friday – I started swinging the bat, and good things come when you swing the bat. I’m always selective, but I’m long so I can reach those outside pitches. I just have to keep swinging.”
Evans actually got an inside fastball from Molter and turned on it to take it over the left-field fence for his big fly, but he was indeed patient at the plate. The Titans right fielder finished the night 1 for 1 with the home run and 4 RBIs, while walking twice and scoring three total times. Shortstop Vincent Bonner reached base four times and scored as many runs, and center fielder Austyn Donnellon led the Titans with the only two-hit performance of the night.
“We swung the bats a little better today,” Titans manager Brian Luebkert said. “We’ve been slumping with the sticks a little bit, so we finally got the monkey off our back there, but the defense is still sloppy. We’ve got to stay focused for as many innings as you’re going to play, and defense wins championships.”
Despite being down a baker’s dozen, Fort Lauderdale never quit fighting. Senior captain and catcher Tanis Martin doubled in a run in the third, and Jackson Lynch scored on a dropped third strike in the fourth. The Flying L’s nearly put together a rally to extend the game past the top of the fifth, but a double play ended the game after senior captain Joshua Turk singled in a pair of runs.
“I just went into the box and said stay away from the run rule,” Turk said of his mentality when stepping up to plate in the fifth. “I just wanted to hit the ball. I want my teammates to hit the ball. I want to score runs.”
Although the Flying L’s scored in each of the final three innings to chip away at the lead, they weren’t able to escape the 10-run rule in the end. It’s been a rough start to the 2023 campaign for Fort Lauderdale, losing four games by eight or more runs early, but this game could serve as a turning point for a team that’s incredibly young, even for the high school level.
“I think we need to make these games more of a priority,” Martin said. “We need to play with honor and take pride in representing the varsity team, and I’m not sure we’re doing a great job of that right now. We need to step up as a team and mature a little more, as soon as possible.”
Flying L’s Manager Terry Portice knows that his roster is young, but that doesn’t excuse the mistakes he believes are avoidable. The team looks sharp in practice when running drills, but translating those skills to an in-game situation has been a struggle. Too many errors, both on defense and on the base paths, are going to cost a team games at any level.
“We’ve got to get rid of the one big inning that dooms us all the time,” Portice said. “If it happens occasionally, it’s one thing, but we show our inexperience when there are multiple baserunner on base. We make a wrong call to the base and compound it with a poor throw. We’re our own worst enemies right now.”
Still, the future appears bright for Fort Lauderdale. Freshman Finn O’Brien was mentioned by both Portice and Turk as a rising star in the program. Turk also mentioned freshman middle infielder Jake Del Negri as a potential name to watch out for. Portice is still waiting for that spark, though. Perhaps it was sparked tonight during the double-digit frame.
“We’ve seen some (fire),” Portice said. “We’ve seen it in little bits and pieces. We’re not seeing it consistently enough. And that’s the thing. When I start seeing it consistently both in practice and in the ball game, then I’ve got a baseball team.”
For Nova, a 4-2 start to the season is the best the program has had since 2019. No one on the Titans’ roster has finished a varsity season with a winning record, but that could all change if Luebkert’s team can keep it up. They’ll have a chance to add two more wins over the rest of the week, and Luebkert likes the way things have started for his club.
“We have a busy week,” he said. “Coconut Creek on Tuesday, Coral Springs Charter on Friday, so this was a good way to start. Monday games are tough for the kids, so if we play well on a Monday it means we start the week off right and can continue it.”