By Bryan Levine, SunCoast Sports
PORT CHARLOTTE — It wasn’t quite a “must-win” for Port Charlotte High School Tuesday night, but a victory was crucial for upcoming District 6A-11 tournament seeding.
After losing a lead and trailing by a pair of runs in the seventh inning, the Pirates tied the game, then won 9-8 in extras over Ida Baker, even though they were in a bases-loaded, nobody-out jam in the top of the eighth.
“It’s huge. Especially because Ida Baker, they’re the top team in our district,” Port Charlotte coach Rodney Taylor said. “It was a big win for us. We needed that win. For those guys to have that lead, we lost that lead, then come back to tie it up and finish it in the next inning it showed a lot of character.”
Damien Ashley had the eventual game-winning single to help the Pirates in their quest to lock up the No. 2 seed.
Ashley’s single might not have had the same meaning, had Port Charlotte not pulled off some magic in the top of the eighth inning. Reliever Matt Intihar quickly allowed the bases loaded, but a fly out to left field, and a throw home by leftfielder Mitchell Derocher to catcher Romain Reynolds gave the Pirates a much-needed double play.
“That play, when Derocher came up throwing home, and Romain made the tag, that right there broke their back and put a little life in us,” Taylor said. “To work out of it was really huge. When he threw him out, the momentum switched. We thought we were dead in the water. That one play brought us back to life.”
Reynolds then led off the bottom of the eighth by being hit by a pitch. He advanced to second on a sacrifice bunt by Derocher, reached third on a single for Jason James, and then Ashley provided the heroics with his single.
This game was extremely close to having a different tone.
The Port Charlotte defense and bullpen had previously wasted a strong outing out of starter Matt LePoint.
Leading 6-2 at one point, six unanswered runs for Ida Baker — five in the sixth inning — led the Bulldogs taking an 8-6 advantage in the sixth inning.
LePoint tossed 4 2/3 innings, surrendered just two hits and struck out eight batters when he left in line for a win. He was forced to come out so early because four Pirate errors allowed not only three unearned runs to score, but for LePoint’s pitch count to reach 103.
“He had a few walks, but the defense behind him wasn’t there,” Taylor said. “It was almost like we couldn’t make a play when we needed to.”
Dominic Delgaudio entered the game for LePoint, and got out of the bases-loaded jam with just one pitch, but couldn’t retire a batter in the sixth.
The sixth inning could’ve been even worse had a Matt McGarty single not hit Trey Koza attempting to reach second base. The Bulldog base paths were a revolving door that inning, as three singles, two walks, two hit batters and a sacrifice fly slowly moved every runner one base at a time.
Said Taylor: “That was another big turning point that went our way.”
Port Charlotte took an early lead in the second inning when Jason James and LePoint had RBI hits to get the Pirates on the board. LePoint helped his own cause again in the third with a one-run single.
The Pirates will pull into a tie with Cape Coral for second in the district with another win against Ida Baker on Thursday.
PORT CHARLOTTE 9, IDA BAKER 8
Ida Baker 002 015 00 — 8 5 2
Port Charlotte 032 100 21 — 9 15 5
WP: Matt Intihar. LP: Brian Horn. Leading Hitters: PC: Damien Ashley 2-3, GW RBI; Mitchell Derocher 2-3, 2B. Records: Port Charlotte: 12-9, 7-4; Ida Baker 14-5, 9-2