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Douglas Escapes 7A Semifinal With 9-7 Win Over Vero Beach

Douglas Eagles State Semifinal Press Conference

Over the past three seasons, all of which resulted in state championships, the Douglas Eagles combined scores in semifinal and championship games has been 37 to five.

Needless to say, they have not been challenged much during their current run.

That changed on Friday afternoon when they faced off with Vero Beach. The Indians scored the first two runs of the game, and then staged a furious rally in the sixth inning.

In the end, despite the close game, it was the Eagles who came away with a 9-7 7A state semifinal victory, sending Douglas back to the state finals with a chance to become the first public school team to ever win four straight state titles.

“We were challenged today,” said Douglas Manager Todd Fitz-Gerald. “They were a scrappy team that we didn’t know much about. They had good approaches at the plate, and they gave us a battle. I was glad we were able to do the things we did to come away with the win.”

The game began with the Indians jumping up early with a near flawless inning of offensive baseball.

Lead off hitter Finley Holmes worked a nine-pitch walk. Jace Romans then executed a hit and run base hit, putting runners on first and second. A perfect bunt base hit by Chase Wilson loaded the bases, and when the throw got away, Holmes scored the games first run against Douglas starting pitcher Gavin Gargiulo.

Garret Srigley followed with a squeeze bunt, putting the Indians up 2-0. Even their final two outs of the inning were good at bats, with both hitters grounding out to second.

In their half of the inning, Douglas did what champions do, they answered the Indians runs with one of their own. Alex Rodriguez singled, followed by a Devin Fitz-Gerald double. Vero starting pitcher Sebastian Dimitroff escaped a big inning by giving up only a Niko Benestad fielders choice RBI groundout.

The Eagles then took their first lead of the game with a three-run second. They added on two in the third, extending the lead to 6-2.

When Nick Diaz stepped to the plate in the fifth and blasted a two-run home run, it appeared the Eagles would cruise into the championship game with their 8-2 lead.

The Indians, however, had no qwit in them on this day. Putting together a string of quality at-bats, the Indians scored five runs, and had the tying and go ahead runs on base with two outs, but Brayden McCluskey was able to strike out Cole Morgan to keep Douglas up 8-7.

After scoring a run in the sixth, Douglas turned the ball over to Luke Cherry, who retired the Indians in order to send Douglas back to the title game.

“I told Luke in the fourth inning, we were not going to use him today,” said Fitz-Gerald. “The plan was to save him for tomorrow, but when things started happening there we had him go down and get ready. He did today what he has done for us all year. He is kind of the guy we go to to shut things down, and he did that again today.”

On the other side of the field, Vero was left to wonder what could have been. After years of having strong teams that set the foundation, the Indians finally broke through and advanced to the state final four, and that is what Manager Bryan Rahal will remember from this years team.

“We have had some very good players and teams through the years,” said Rahal. “Even through the regional run, we had around 30 of them a game showing up to support this years team. It isn’t easy getting out of any region in 7A, so I am proud of what this group of players accomplished.”

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