Thunder will battle Lake Worth Trinity Christian Academy at 1 p.m. Wednesday in Fort Myers
SARASOTA — Getting six workmanlike innings from starter Josh Cone, a close-out seventh inning from Tyler Colditz and some timely hitting, the Out-of-Door Academy baseball team posted a 4-1 victory over Spring Hill Bishop McLaughlin in the Class 2A-Region 3 final Saturday night at home.
Advancing to the State Final 4 for the first time in program history, Out-of-Door Academy (22-3) will face Lake Worth Trinity Christian Academy, a 12-7 winner over Miami Christian, in a 2A state semifinal at 1 p.m. Wednesday at CenturyLink Sports Complex-Hammond Stadium in Fort Myers, spring training home of the Minnesota Twins.
Out-of-Door was coming off a 10-7 victory Wednesday at Fort Myers Canterbury when it scored six runs in the seventh inning to erase a 7-4 deficit.
“It was definitely hard with emotions being that high after winning that game and coming back for two days of hard work and coming back to play this game,” Colditz said.
“That was my No. 1 priority,” first-year Out-of-Door coach Mike Matthews said. “We had a tough loss against them two years ago, and that game has been on our minds all season long.
"My buildup was we’ve got to get there, and we did, and it was probably the most emotional game I’ve ever been part of, as a player and a coach.
They were so pumped up about it. I had to continue to remind them to be humble, stay hungry and understand Canterbury was a goal, but it wasn’t the goal. They did an awesome job coming to work Thursday and Friday to get ready for (Saturday).”
Another log on the fire came earlier this season when the Thunder returned from a layoff because of COVID-19 and in their first game lost 10-4 at home to Canterbury. ODA also lost the regional final to Canterbury, 6-5, in nine innings in 2019.
“We’ve had that game on our minds for two years,” said Matthews, an assistant coach with the Thunder before taking over this season.
So with Canterbury in the rearview mirror, the task at hand was up to the pitcher who started Wednesday but was removed after one inning.
“A little flat, (he) didn’t have his best stuff,” Matthews said of Cone. “So for him to be able to bounce back from that and have the confidence to come in there and pitch six innings of one-run baseball is tremendous.”
A junior left-hander, Cone took a three-hit shutout into the sixth before allowing two hits and a sacrifice fly. He finished strong with his sixth strikeout to strand a Hurricanes' runner at third.
“My offspeed pitches and throwing my fastball for strike,” Cone said. “I wasn’t getting behind in the count. Just going right at them and just dealing.
“Yeah, I would say it was one of my better games. No walks and going right at them.”
Then it was Colditz's turn and the senior right-hander responded with a 1-2-3 seventh, getting an outstanding defensive play from center fielder Nolan Lewellen, who had a head-long diving catch, before recording a strikeout to end it.
“I’m just itching to get out there to close out a game and win a game,” Colditz said.
“Tyler has been our closer the last two or three years,” Matthews said. “His nickname is ice. He’s just that guy. He believes in himself. He doesn’t let the moment get too big. Generally, he closes the door for us.”
In stretching their win streak to seven games, the Thunder opened the scoring in the first inning off senior right-hander Tanner Boccabello. Lewellen singled, stole second, took third on a ground out and scored on a hit by Colditz.
“It helped a lot. It helped with my confidence,” Cone said of the early support.
Ranked 61st in the state and fifth in 2A by MaxPreps and 77th by the FHSAA power rankings, ODA added a run in the third on a double by catcher PJ Fincher then scored another in the fourth on a double by leadoff hitter Logan Tribble, the hero of Wednesday’s win over Canterbury with a grand slam in the seventh inning. Lewellen drove in the final run in the sixth inning.
Bishop McLaughlin, who reached the State Final 4 in 2015 and 2017, finished 20-8.