Plant decides to “do something great” in semifinal win

Panthers players mob P Mitchel Doane after Plant rallied for 5-4 state semifinal win.

By Chuck Frye, Staff Writer

FORT MYERS – The “lightning” brought out Plant’s thunder.

In a roller-coaster of a Class 7A state semifinal on Tuesday, Lake Worth Park Vista was opportunistic when it mattered, using small ball and overly aggressive base running to overturn an early Plant lead and ride the momentum change to victory.

But after a 30-minute lightning delay used to ponder the fate of its season, the Panthers chose to come back and fight. Batting around in the fateful top of the seventh inning and doubling its hit total in the process, Plant surged to take the lead and ride sterling relief from junior Mitchel Doane to take home a pulse-pounding 5-4 victory.

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The triumph moves the Panthers’ record to 21-7 and avenges a loss suffered in last year’s 7A state semis. They will now face Stoneman Douglas Wednesday night for the 7A title, at 5 p.m. from Fort Myers’ Hammond Stadium.

The heartbreaking defeat drops the Cobras’ season-ending record to 22-4-1.

The bottom of the Plant lineup kick-started things as Kirk Kolano and Tanner Swank both went oppo for lead-off singles to rightfield. After executing his first bunt of the season for a sacrifice in the third frame, Cash Strayer did himself one better by dropping down a perfect bunt in the seventh for a base hit to load the sacks.

“It was a perfect pitch to bunt,” Strayer said. “A slider on the outside corner made it easy to bunt.”

Rocco DeMarinis followed with a sacrifice fly to centerfield deep enough to bring home Kolano, then Robert Satin, who had struggled in his first two plate appearances, dropped a perfect Texas League bloop between three Cobra fielders in right-centerfield to score Swank and tie the game.

“I was going up there looking for a fastball first pitch,” Satin explained. “(Park Vista junior starter Ethan Mattison) gave it to me and I put it in a perfect spot.”

Plant senior sends a ball out to right-center tying the game in the seventh.

Tanner Swank comes home on Satin’s hit, tying the game.

“I had thrown complete games in two of my last three starts, I felt good, I wasn’t sore or tight, so (head coach Larry Greenstein and I) talked and decided to keep me in,” Mattison said about continuing after the weather delay. “I was throwing strikes but I was leaving them up and (Plant) punished them. That’s how baseball goes.”

Cobras starting pitcher Ethan Mattison.

Senior reliever Michael Malone entered and fanned the first batter he faced but Trey Freeman took a tight 3-and-2 offering for a walk to reload the bases, then Jack Meade was hit with a pitch to force in Strayer as the tie-breaking run.

Empowered with the advantage, junior Mitchel Doane came in to lock down the come-from-behind triumph but instead hit No. 9 hitter Josh Hungler to start bottom-seven. He bailed himself out via a tailor-made double play ball started by Freeman at short, then coaxed a fly out to start Plant’s celebration.

“I tried to treat this the same as every day,” Doane said. “Obviously, the plan wasn’t to plunk the first guy with a cutter that slipped, but it was electric to get the DP after.”

Plant reliever Mitchel Doane.

The comeback was even more amazing considering how Plant’s offense flattened out after a second-inning lead. Bryce Pelleriti got his first of two singles, moved up on a Freeman sacrifice bunt and scored on a two-out fielding error for the early 1-0 advantage.

Bryce Pelleriti scored in the second inning.

Park Vista charged back against starter Satin in the fourth. Anthony Espinoza (single) broke perfectly from third to score on a dropped third strike throw to first followed by a Ryan Brown single that plated Will Bavaro (base hit) along with a hustling Matthew Lashley (walk), who scored from first.

Plant senior shortstop Trey Freeman starts a double-play in the bottom of the seventh.

Plant’s offense resurrected in the sixth as it rapped out three hits and scored as pinch runner Connor Fulmino (DeMarinis singled) came home on a Pelleriti safety, setting the stage for a historic finish and a shot at its first title since 1988.

Panthers head coach Dennis Braun spelled it out perfectly: “We got that rain delay and we talked about whether we could sit around for 30 minutes and mope about the errors we made to go down 4-2 or get ourselves visualized up and motivated to do something great.

“I guess they decided to do something great.”

Class 7A State Semifinal ⚾

Plant 5, Lake Worth Park Vista 4

P   010|001|3 – |5|7|2
PV 000|301|0 – |4|6|3
W – Hill (5-2); L – Mattison; S – Doane (2)
3B – Calise (PV). Records – P (21-7); PV (22-4-1).