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Roberts’ Gem Leads Flanagan Past Cypress Bay In Districs

Joey Roberts (8) struck out six over 5 2/3 innings for Flanagan on Monday and picked up the win over Cypress Bay.

It took a little while for Flanagan to break through on Monday against the Cypress Bay Lightning, but the Falcons used a four-run third and a strong start from Joey Roberts to win 6-1 and advance to the District 7A-14 semifinals.

Roberts was electric all night. Cypress Bay got to him early for two hits and an unearned run in the first, but he settled down with a 1-2-3 second inning and retired nine straight at one point later on.

“I didn’t have my best stuff the first inning,” Roberts said. “It as a struggle but I was able to come back. It was an unearned run, but that doesn’t matter. I just had to come back and shut it down, so for the rest of the game, I locked in.”

Flanagan had the bases loaded in each of the first three innings, but Cypress Bay’s starter, Ian Guevara, worked his way out of the first two jams and was racking up strikeouts at a quick rate. The Falcons finally broke through against him in the third, though, scoring first on a bases-loaded hit by pitch and again on a big two-run single from freshman Caden Corzo.

One more run scored on a wild pitch, making it 5-1 in favor of Flanagan, and that’s all the Falcons would need behind Roberts, who was almost unhittable after taking the lead.

“After struggling, my mental went to almost–like it was an emergency,” he said. “Like I needed to get it done or else something bad would happen. Once we got the lead, (my teammate) told me to change my mental, which basically meant I could do it. I could shut them down. I just needed to breathe and relax and focus on my mechanics.”

Freshman Caden Corzo (21) delivered a two-run single for Flanagan in the third.

Corzo’s two-run single was the real momentum shifter in this contest. Guevara had worked through trouble already, and getting one run back isn’t too daunting of a task. Corzo’s base hit meant that Cypress Bay had to put up a crooked number on offense, and Roberts was already showing signs of turning things around from the tough first.

“My two previous at-bats, I saw a lot of pitches,” Corzo said. “I saw more than seven pitches each time. So, that at-bat, I just told myself, ‘catch the fastball and he’s attacking early in the zone; take it the other way.'”

Corzo agreed that driving in key runs in a playoff game has been the biggest moment of his career so far, and he made sure to give credit to his coach for giving him the opportunity as an underclassman. Falcons manager Noel Figueroa started off his post-game comments with praise for both Corzo and Roberts.

“Caden’s been doing a great job,” Figueroa said. “He’s a freshman, but he plays like a junior. He’s real polished. Joey Roberts, too. He’s been sensational all year for us on the mound. I can’t say enough about the guy.”

After the big third inning, Cypress Bay brought in Jake Sasse to pitch the rest of the game. He only allowed two hits and two walks over the next three innings, but one of those base knocks scored a run in the sixth. Brandon Ostolaza added the insurance run.

Bruno Schafer closed things out for Flanagan, striking out of the six batters he faced.

Ian Guevara (16) worked his way out of two bases-loaded jams through the first two innings for Cypress Bay.

Guevara and Sasse are seniors, and a loss means that this was their final game wearing Lightning uniforms. A senior class of eight — John Antonelli, Jack Goldberg, Caleb Gottlieb, Guevara, Brandon Meredith, Juan Mendez, Jesus Rodriguez and Sasse — will be sorely missed at Cypress Bay, and bittersweet tears filled the eyes of coaches and players as they reflected on the season as a whole.

“It was a fun season,” Lightning manager Bo Diaz said. “We went 11-8-1 during the regular season, including probably four or five extra-innings games. These guys learned a lot about themselves and battled all year long… High school baseball teaches us more than just the game. It teaches us how to overcome adversity, how to overcome obstacles and how to come together as a group and hold each other accountable.

“I think it was a great season. It wasn’t the outcome we wanted, but we have a very young team that’s going to grow in the next couple of years. I feel for my seniors. This was a really classy group that has been here for four years. They’re going to be missed. They really left this place better than when they came here.”

Sasse and Guevara have been one of the best 1-2 punches in the district this season. It meant a lot to each of them to get the ball on Monday, and they’ve set the bar for what pitchers should strive for at Cypress Bay.

“It means the world to me to share the field with these guys,” Guevara said. “It’s been a fight all year. Bringing that team together, I think we accomplished something as a group. Later in the year, we were that band of brothers and we love each other. We fight and go to war for each other.”

As for Flanagan, a district semifinal matchup with West Broward looms. The past two regular season games between those two have been thrillers with long rain delays in the middle. There’s no doubt that both teams will come ready to play, and hopefully, Mother Nature cooperates.

Figueroa has seen ups and down from his team all year long, but he likes the way they are playing when it matters most.

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