By Scott Lockwood, Venice Gondolier Sun
FORT MYERS — A little over half an hour after Tampa Gaither center fielder Jose Cadenas made a spectacular catch that robbed Venice of a late go-ahead run, he found himself standing on second base with the potential to score the winning run in Saturday’s Class 7A state championship game.
As teammate Denny Rodriguez laced a hard grounder at Venice shortstop Shane Shifflett, Cadenas made a beeline around third and toward home plate.
“With two outs in a title game,” Cadenas said, “there was no way I was stopping.”
Shifflett’s throw sailed wide of first base, and Cadenas scored what proved to be the run that gave the Cowboys an unlikely 2-1, eight-inning victory for their first state baseball title.
After falling behind 1-0 in the top of the first, Venice had trouble with Gaither starter DJ Masuck and his off-speed offerings. The Indians managed a pair of hits in the first three innings, the second of which was a game-tying RBI single by senior Scott Dubrule.
Masuck held Venice to just a pair of hits over the next three innings. The Indians seemed to finally figure out Masuck in the sixth, with Mitch Donofrio’s single to center giving the Indians a chance at scoring the potential go-ahead run.
Trevor Holloway, who went 5 1/3 innings, also singled to set Joey Kinker up for a chance to replicate what he did in the state semifinal win over Creekside — smash a two-run double.
Kinker squared up an offering from Masuck and sent it right toward the Green Monster in left center at JetBlue Park. Cadenas got a jump on what looked like a sure double and made an over-the-shoulder catch in a dead sprint to end the threat.
“I thought for sure that was down, but he made a spectacular play on it,” Kinker said. “I just have to tip my hat to him.”
Cadenas singled off Venice reliever Brent Killam in the extra frame and ultimately crossed the plate with the winning run. Donofrio and Holloway got on with hits in the bottom of the inning, but Kinker flew out to Cadenas again to end the game.
“Venice is every bit as good as advertised,” Gaither coach Nelson North said. “We played this game one pitch at a time and I think that’s exactly how we won. We played one pitch at a time better than they did. In a game of inches…that’s it.”
Venice finished the season 26-6 with its fifth straight trip to the state title game.
“We feel blessed to have been here and we worked very hard to get here,” Venice head coach Craig Faulkner said. “Baseball is a tough, humbling game. Guys gave full effort.
“We just didn’t win it today.”