A season that began with uncertainty concluded on Friday for the Seven Rivers Christian baseball team, but certainly not without a great deal of success.
However, the Warriors were unable to pull off a repeat trip to the Final Four, losing the Region 2A-3 final in Naples versus host Seacrest Country Day, 5-4.
“We made mental mistakes and booted the ball around a little bit, and didn’t capitalize when we had chances,” Seven Rivers head coach Travis Phillips said. “Right now, it hurts. Now that we’re here, it was like, ‘OK, let’s win it and go.’ The past four years we’ve been neck and neck with these guys. It hurts. It was a one-run game. We did enough to win, we just made some mistakes.”
This was the fourth year in a row that the Warriors (22-5) and Stingrays (20-9) have faced in regionals, with Seacrest capturing three of those meetings. The exception was last year’s region final, an 11-5 victory for Seven Rivers that sent the Warriors to the state semifinals for the second time in four seasons.
In this one, the Stingrays took a 1-0 advantage in the bottom of the second inning on a single by Deight Zafta. But Seven Rivers answered with a three-run third, Carson Pillsbury, Hunter Looper and Josh Nelson each collecting an RBI.
The Warriors went in front 4-3 in the fifth when Looper, who was 2 for 4, drove in a second run. Yet that lead evaporated in the bottom of the inning. Joe Dinorcia was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded to bring in the go-ahead run.
So Seven Rivers could not defend its regional crown, but considering its significant personnel losses via graduation Phillips hardly considered that a failure.
“At the beginning of the season we weren’t thinking we’d be where we’re at, but now that we’re here we want to play like we belong,” Phillips said. “We just came up a little short and in a one-game playoff anything can happen. They happened to be the better team this game.
“I’m disappointed. The boys are all disappointed. It hurts. But we’re 22-5 and if you’d ask me at the beginning of the season I’d say we’d be 10-10, 12-13. … They were very coachable. They tried to do the little things right. They went above and beyond and tried to please us. They learned to be tough.”
After a 12-0 start, Phillips admitted the expectations increased for the Warriors and the team had to learn to deal with the added pressure.
“When everyone is trying to beat you because you’re pretty decent, that makes it tough,” Phillips said. “We just didn’t get timely hits when we needed them down the stretch (of the season).
“All in all, it was a very good season. I’m very proud of them. They outplayed my expectations, for sure.”