EAST LAKE -
There was no panic in East Lake on Thursday night.
Finding themselves down 2-0 and being no-hit through 3 1/2 frames against Sarasota Riverview, the host Eagles hit their stride and calmly scored three unanswered runs to secure a third district championship in as many years.
East Lake shortstop Keegan Maronpot, responsible for tying the game at 2-2 in the fourth with a base hit, said the team kept its confidence from start to finish Thursday.
“We knew we had to score a run anyway, so we weren't too worried about that. We've been hitting the ball well all season.”
Up until the Eagles' game-changing, two-run fourth inning, Riverview starting pitcher Blake Wyant appeared poised to turn in a monster performance. The senior struck out three and sat down the first nine Eagles in order after three innings.
“He's crafty,” Maronpot said of Wyant. “He mixes his pitches up pretty well but we've faced him before. It's like that a lot after seeing someone once and getting more comfortable with his stuff.”
The Eagles did look to be plenty comfortable in their second AB's against the 6-foot-3 righty.
Troy Strominger and Doug Rovello got things going in the fourth with back-to-back base hits and a well-executed double steal that gave East Lake men at second and third with no outs.
After shooting what would have been a base-clearing extra-base hit just foul down the right-field line, catcher Grant Hodges settled for a run-scoring ground out to second that succeeded in getting the Eagles on the board. Maronpot followed that up with his game-tying RBI base hit into left field that plated Rovello.
East Lake went back to work in the fifth to bring home the game's decisive and final run, and the Eagles did it in familiar, manufactured fashion.
Tyler Neuhaus started the sequence by reaching with a one-out walk and promptly stealing second, the last of East Lake's four swipes on the night. Cameron Churchill then set the stage for sophomore designated hitter Sawyer Wirth by advancing Neuhaus to third with a ground out to second. Faced with two strikes, Wirth sent a high chopper to a charging Kyle Washburn at second. Knowing he had to rush, a slight bobble transferring the ball from glove to throwing hand was just enough to allow Wirth to beat out a bang-bang play at first and Neuhaus to cross home and put East Lake up for good, 3-2.
“I was just thinking I've got to hustle no matter what,” Wirth said of bringing home the game-winner. “Two outs, man on third and I've got to try my hardest to get down to first.”
While the Eagles' offense was patiently finding its footing Thursday night, East Lake's pitching duo of starter Ryan Wall and reliever Brad Deppermann turned in yet another sterling night on the hill.
Wall, East Lake's unbeaten sophomore, surrendered the Rams' only two hits – both singles – during his four innings of work. Neither of the two runs Riverview scored off Wall was earned.
Deppermann, who entered in the fifth with the game tied 2-2, essentially did to Riverview what Wyant did East Lake in the first three innings. The junior challenged Rams hitters, pounded the strike zone and mowed down nine straight to earn the win.
“Ryan Wall and Depp, that's a dirty combination,” East Lake coach Dan Genna said of his Thursday night arms.
The district title now allows East Lake to host its third-straight region quarterfinal game. That contest will come Wednesday night against District 8A-7 runner-up Wharton High. The Wildcats (12-14) lost their league title game against Durant (21-5) on Thursday, 5-1.
SRV - 100 100 0 --- 2-2-1
EL - 000 210 x --- 3-5-2
WP – Brad Deppermann
LP – Blake Wyant