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Heritage Holds Off Pines Charter In 5A Regional Semis

Spencer Krasner (11) struck out 11 for American Heritage over 6.1 innings of one-hit work against Pines Charter.

The American Heritage Patriots are headed to the Class 5A Region 4 Finals, but it took two endings during a dramatic seventh inning to seal the deal on a 3-2 victory over Pembroke Pines Charter Friday night.

Coming into the seventh inning, Heritage had a 3-0 lead and freshman left-hander Spencer Krasner was dealing with a shot at his first complete game. The only thing that stopped him was the FHSAA-mandated pitch count of 95 for 15-year-old athletes. Krasner started the seventh knowing he had five pitches to work with, but he hit the leadoff batter and only managed one more strikeout before exiting the game.

That’s when Antonio Turco-Rivas came in to close things out, but the rollercoaster ride was only just beginning. Six-straight balls led to an RBI single to right, but Turco-Rivas induced a comebacker to his glove and converted the double play at third to end the game… or so everyone thought.

Suddenly, Frank Sinatra’s “New York, New York” cut off and the umpires huddled to deliberate. After a brief discussion, runners were sent back to third and second, and, perhaps most shockingly, the batter that hit the comebacker was awarded first base and no out was recorded. It turns out that the ball ricocheted off of Turco-Rivas’ glove and slid into the breast of his jersey, which the umpire crew determined was not a catch by definition. Therefore, the ball was immediately declared dead and all runners return to their bases.

It took the better part of 15 minutes to satisfy inquiries from both teams, but home-plate umpire Vinnie Harstad made sure to get the call right and took the time to get the rules in writing before “restarting” a regional semifinal.

“It’s a lodged ball,” Patriots manager Mike Macey said after the game. “It hit the glove and stuck in the jersey. It’s not necessarily a hit, but it’s not an out, he’s awarded first base and nobody advances. I’ve never seen that before. (The umpires) had to make a call and apparently that’s the rule.”

Bryan Barcenas (3) also pitched a complete game for Pines Charter, holding American Heritage to three runs over six innings.

After the game started back up, Macey did his best to keep his players in check during a bizarre situation. The bases were loaded after all, and Pines Charter still had two outs to overcome a two-run deficit. Alejandro Puig drove in one run on a bloop single, bringing up the Jaguars’ clean-up hitter, Paul Abolafia Jr. Turco-Rivas eventually won an eight-pitch battle against Abolafia and finally closed out the win with a flyout from Sebastian Gonzalez.

It doesn’t get much more dramatic than that, and Krasner still got the win after a career outing. His 11 strikeouts and 6.1 innings pitched eclipse his 6-inning, 10-strikeout performance against West Broward earlier in the year.

“There are no words for what he did,” Macey said of Krasner’s performance. “Let’s just say he didn’t pitch like a freshman tonight. Our expectations for him are just what you saw. There was never a doubt that he was going to go out and throw the ball well.”

Krasner might be young, but he’s growing at a rapid pace, which means he’s only going to get better. He’s already added two inches and a couple of pounds to his frame this year, which might be why he looks beyond his years on the mound. Still, Krasner says he treated this like any other start, listening to country music and rap before the game to get in a comfortable head space.

“Just kept my composure like the rest of the games I’ve pitched this year,” Krasner said. “I think of it as a regular game. Just go out there, do my thing, and whatever happens, happens. Pitch to contact. If they miss the barrels, they miss barrels. I was just doing my thing out there.”

Of course, Krasner needed some run support to get the win, too. Junior Andrew Ortiz hit a two-run homer in the fourth, and sophomore Jordan Rich singled in a run in the fifth. Macey called Ortiz’s home run the biggest hit of the two-year starter’s career and praised him for coming through when the team desperately needed to take a lead.

Andrew Ortiz’s (10) two-run home run in the fourth inning made the difference for Heritage.

As good as Krasner was, it would be unfair not to mention the effort from Pines Charter senior Bryan Barcenas throughout the game. He gave up just three runs (two earned) on four hits and a walk. It’s not easy to keep the Heritage bats quiet at home, but Barcenas had the Patriots baffled for most of the night. A mistake pitch to Ortiz might have made the difference in this one.

Manager Carlos Iglesias has no regrets looking back on the season, though. His team accomplished a lot and exceeded the expectations of many. Beating Eau Gallie in the quarterfinals is no small feat. The Commodores made it to Fort Myers a year ago and are a well-coached club. Pines Charter almost got the job done again on Friday, but all good things must come to an end at some point.

“The players responded,” Iglesias said. “It shows in the way we played the last few weeks. We fought until the last strike, and that’s what I’m proud of. This team has the heart of winners. Every single player was a winner, and it’s just because of the dedication and preparation.”

For Heritage, a meeting with Archbishop McCarthy looms. Things have gone the Patriots’ against the Mavericks lately, but both clubs are on fire this year.

“Look, we’re going to McCarthy. It’s not going to be easy,” Macey said. “They know us, we know them and we’ve never played in a regional final. The stakes have never been higher for us or them. It’s going to be fun.”

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