By Rick Nolte, Sports Editor
ENGLEWOOD — Warnner Rincones faced a full count with two out and the bases loaded and his Lemon Bay team trailing by a run in the bottom of the sixth in Thursday night against Lake Placid in the District 5A-12 tournament championship.
Rincones swung at the delivery by Dragons reliever Angel Ojeda and got just enough of it to pop it nearly straight up near home plate.
Catcher Alan Vega had plenty of time to find the ball, but at the last second misjudged his distance from the ball and it fell just out of his diving reach.
“It was crazy,” Rincones said. “Just crazy. I couldn’t believe it.”
Ojeda served up the next pitch and Rincones lofted it into foul ground near the third base bag. Third baseman Bailey Bevis had the ball sighted and was waiting for it to drop into his glove.
But just like Vega, Bevis misjudged his position and the ball fell just behind him.
“Even crazier,” Rincones said of his third chance at the 3-2 pitch. “Unbelievable.”
No Lake Placid fielder had a chance to catch the ball the next time Rincones swung as he laced Ojeda’s next pitch down the left field line for a double that cleared the bases, giving the Manta Rays a 7-5 win.
“After that (two extra chances) I knew I had to put the ball in play and bring in those runs,” the sophomore shortstop said.
Lemon Bay coach Casey Hanrahan chalked up the unlikely victory to his socks and the luck they usually bring finally surfacing somewhere halfway through the game.
“When I went to pack my bag this morning I had two pair of socks to choose from and one of them was my lucky socks,” said the coach, whose team upped its record to 16-9. “For a while, I was kicking myself in the foot because I had thought I had put the wrong pair of socks on.
“It turns out our luck changed about half way through the game. We turned some things around and we ended up winning it.”
The loss was a bitter one for Lake Placid (10-14), which had been shut out by Lemon Bay starter Trey Fields in both regular-season outings. However, the Dragons broke through against Fields for three runs in the first and two more in the third to appear headed for the upset.
“It was a little crazy in the beginning, but we fought back,” Rincones said.
Lake Placid chased Fields after a lead-off walk in the fourth, but Jaryd Clary took over got the next three hitters to strand a runner at third. The effort was the start of a four-inning stint that saw the left-hander scatter three hits with a walk and five strikeouts to earn the win.
“Jaryd Clary came in and did a great job for us,” Hanrahan said.
Lake Placid starter Justin Mason suffered the loss, finally unraveling in the sixth when the Manta Rays sent 10 men to the plate beginning with a lead-off bunt single from Clary. Mason was victimized by back-to-back errors on ground balls in the infield that would have allowed him to escape the inning with only Clary scoring on one of the miscues.
However, he followed the errors with three straight walks which brought on Ojeda to face Rincones.
“I was just trying to put the ball in play,” the sophomore said. “Then they drop those ball and it’s another chance for me to get on base.”
Added Hanrahan: “I’ve never been in that situation, but it’s high school baseball. Anything can happen on any given night. “
The win handed Lemon Bay its first district title since 2002 most long-time followers of the program believe.
“They’re saying 2002, Hanrahan said. “Somebody will need to check the banner for sure.”
Both teams will play in next week’s region quarterfinals. The Manta Rays will host Lakewood while the Dragons will play at District 5A-11 champion Booker.
LEMON BAY 7, LAKE PLACID 5
Lake Placid 302 000 0 — 5 6 2
Lemon Bay 000 205 x — 7 3 0
WP: Jaryd Clary. LP: Justin Mason. Leading hitters: (LP) Tay Williams 2-3, 2 RBI, R; Mike Warner 2B, RBI, R. (LB) Warner Rincones 2B, 3 RBI; Zach Pelliciotti RBI. Records: (LP) 14-14; (LB) 16-9.