By Dawn Klemish, SunCoast Sports
ENGLEWOOD — When it came down to it, Lemon Bay High School did a lot of things right, almost to the end. Lakewood was inconsistent and sloppy, almost to the end.
But the end is what mattered and the Spartans had it all in the seventh inning, jerking the Manta Rays’ banner season to an abrupt halt with a late-game rally, winning 6-5 in the Region 5A-4 quarterfinal on Wednesday night.
“I’m proud of this team, and I’m proud of these guys,” Lemon Bay coach Casey Hanrahan said. “This team exceeded everybody’s expectations in a lot of ways. It’s a shame it had to end like that.
“We kind of beat ourselves out there in the last inning.”
Lakewood committed six errors heading into its final at-bats, and all momentum was on the Manta Rays’ side as they took a 5-3 lead into the frame. Lemon Bay needed just three outs to advance to the semifinal, and starting pitcher Jaryd Clary sprinted to the mound before anyone could hint at sending in a closer, eager to finish the task.
But it didn’t happen. Clary walked leadoff hitter Anthony Hudson, secured an out and allowed a single, then was forced to intentionally walk Bo Bichette — a major league prospect who had already homered off the lefty — to load the bases.
Dontae Mitchell battled Clary for nine pitches before drawing a walk to bring Lakewood to within 5-4, then a throwing error to the plate allowed the tying run to score. Vinnie Grybauskas then grounded out to score the eventual game-winner and Clary intentionally walked the next hitter to reload the bases and turned the ball over to Trey Fields.
Fields caught Jeremy Trexel looking on a third strike to end the Spartans’ scoring, but the damage had been done. Lemon Bay went down in order to end its postseason hopes.
“What can you say in a situation like that?” Hanrahan said. “We had it won. Jaryd Clary pitched a great game. He wanted it more than anybody else out there. … He wanted to stay in and we had a lot of faith in him. We thought he was going to get out of it.”
The first six innings went much the opposite way. Lakewood struck first on a run-scoring single from Sonny Neuman in the first inning, but the lead was short-lived.
Lemon Bay countered in the bottom of the frame with heads-up base-running from Warnner Rincones. The leadoff hitter took second on a botched throw from home and headed to third when he saw no one was covering. Second baseman Vinnie Grybowskas’ throw was late and off-target, sending Rincones home to tie the game.
The Manta Rays briefly took the lead in the next inning when Zach Pellicciotti led off with a single, took second on an error and came home on a Stephen Yulee sacrifice fly.
Bichette backed up the hype surrounding him in the third to re-knot the score. The Spartans shortstop drew a handful of major-league scouts to the game and didn’t disappoint, blasting Jaryd Clary’s 3-1 offering out of the park.
By the bottom of the same inning though, Lemon Bay was fed up with the back-and-forth. The Manta Rays scored a pair on Fields’ double that sailed over the centerfielder’s head, then added another run in the fourth when Clary was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded.
It was the hardest way to earn an RBI, and Lemon Bay’s last run scored of the season.
Lakewood advances to Tuesday’s regional semifinal against Booker, which defeated Lake Placid 8-3 in the other quarterfinal.
LAKEWOOD 6, LEMON BAY 5
Lakewood 101 010 3 — 6 6 6
Lemon Bay 112 100 0 — 5 6 1
WP: Aidan Dowd. LP: Jaryd Clary. Leading hitters: Trey Fields (LB) 1-3, 2 RBI, R, HBP; Jaryd Clary (LB) 1-3, HBP, RBI; Bo Bichette (L) 1-1, HR, 3 BB. Records: Lakewood 13-13, Lemon Bay 16-10.