Leto’s Jon Santos came through with an RBI double in the 12th inning as the Falcons defeated Winter Haven 2-1. (813Preps file photo)

By Jarrett Guthrie
WINTER HAVEN – It stretched across two days and 12 innings, but all Leto needed was to relax and string together some timely hitting and the top of the order sparkled as the Falcons defeated Winter Haven 2-1, in the Class 7A region semifinal on Wednesday night.

The game, which went through three scoreless innings before being halted by the weather on Tuesday night, resumed Wednesday with neither team giving an inch. Both teams were able to turn to the original starters from the night before as the pitch count was low in the scoreless run early.

Leto senior Jakob Ryley retook the mound and worked into the seventh allowing just one run.

The Falcons got on the board first in the top of the sixth as Fernando Muniz singled through short and moved around to third on a sac bunt and a ground out, setting up an RBI single to right by senior Jackson Alvord.

Winter Haven answered in the bottom of the sixth with a solo home run to tie the game.

But Leto had a literal ace in the hole, turning to junior righty Christian Suarez to keep the Blue Devils hitters from success. Suarez worked the rest of the game, allowing just one more hit.

The game stretched deep into extra innings, and head coach JJ Pizzio said the coaching staff started to think too much. Instead of over-planning and strategizing, Pizzio said he and his peers decided to let his players do what has worked all season – wing it.

“We were thinking, is this the spot for a bunt, or do we try and take an extra chance here,” Pizzio said. “But then we all just kind of looked at each other and thought, let these kids play. That’s what they do best. That’s when we win.”

Leto senior Fernando Muniz scored both runs for the Falcons.
(813Preps file photo)

The decision was made easier as the lineup again turned over in the top of the 12th and Fernando Muniz was set to lead off.

“Fernando just smiled at me, gave me a little hug and said, ‘I’ll take care of it, I’ll be right back after I get a run,’” Pizzio said.

Muniz legged out an infield single to short, applied pressure on the pitcher moving to second on a balk, and set up Jon “Chicalito” Santos who flared a ball over second base for an RBI double.

“Muniz was scoring on anything hit,” Pizzio said. “And Chicalito put the ball over the second baseman and there was nothing stopping (Muniz).”

From there Suarez got two ground ball outs and a pop out to seal the win for Leto.

The Falcons will host Melbourne in next week 7A state semifinal, in search of the program’s first final four appearance since 1970.