Springstead had waited nearly 40 years to finally capture a regional game, and it appeared Mother Nature might make it wait at least another day.
But somehow through the raindrops Wednesday night, the Eagles managed to get in their Class 6A, Region II quarterfinal against visiting Gainesville.
While the visiting Hurricanes were willing to endure some precipitation in order to avoid another lengthy trip, host Springstead surely didn’t mind getting a little wet en route to the end result: a 13-3 victory in five innings.
In their fourth appearance, the Eagles (17-8) erased the goose egg in their regional win column.
“It’s very, very big,” Springstead head coach Jim Diven said. “It’s very big for the team; it’s very big for the school. We are peaking, no question.
“We do more batting practice than any team and it’s really starting to show. We’ve gotten by all the bumps in the road and we’re looking forward to playing Citrus.”
The Eagles will host Citrus, also the Hurricanes, in a semifinal Tuesday at 7 p.m. It will mark a rematch of the 6A-District 6 title game last Thursday, won by Springstead, 6-1.
Those teams have met three times already this season, with the Eagles coming out on top in each instance. Citrus defeated Ocala-Lake Weir on Wednesday, 8-5.
That was significant going up against Gainesville (9-19), and those issues seemed to resurface in a lengthy top of the first inning.
With the help of an error, two singles, a walk, a hit batter and a handful of tough at-bats, the ‘Canes forced Eagle starter Brandon Brosher to throw 49 pitches in the opening frame.
Bryce Plummer worked a base-loaded free pass to bring home the game’s first run, and Malachi Mitchell grounded a single through the right side to make it 2-0.
Brosher escaped further trouble with back-to-back strikeouts, the start of a reoccurring theme for the burly right-hander signed with Division I Oral Roberts University.
After he struck out the side around another hit batter and a balk in the second, the persistent drizzle turned into a steady downpour, causing a roughly 20-minute delay.
Though the rain never completely stopped, it let up enough for the teams to return to the field and finish out the remainder of the game.
When play resumed, the Eagles’ bats sprung to life. They would send 10 batters to the plate and score six times in the bottom of the second.
A balk brought in Nic Pasarela, who reached on an error, and catcher Trent Wyzykowski followed with what seemed like a simple fly ball to right. However, the right fielder lost sight of the ball, allowing it to drop for a two-run double.
Later in the inning, Ryan Nicoll beat out an infield single to the third baseman for one run batted in. Brosher then connected on a booming two-run triple off the right-center field fence.
“At first I was a little concerned,” Diven said. “It was 2-0 in the first inning and they’re a scrambling little team. But with these guys, there’s no quit in them. That’s what it takes.”
Will Pagan’s RBI groundout scoring Pasarela made it 7-2 in the third. Gainesville got one back in the fourth on a wild pitch.
That would be the final inning for Brosher, who was hovering around 100 pitches. He gave up three earned runs on three hits, three walks and three hit batters, but of the 12 outs he recorded, 11 were by strikeout.
“I wish I was a little more efficient when it comes to placement,” said Brosher, who improved to 5-2. “Everything felt really good. My split-finger, my change-up, my fastball, everything felt really good.”
In the bottom of the fifth, the Eagles again batted around and put six runs on the board to invoke the mercy rule.
Wyzykowski got the scoring started with his second two-run double, this time on a line drive down the left-field line.
The senior backstop, mired in a 2-for-28 skid coming in, went 2-for-3 and drove in four runs.
“I was looking for a fastball to hit and saw the right fielder not knowing where it is, and I kept running,” Wyzykowski said of the first double. “The second one, I saw a fastball up in the zone and just turned on it.
“I’ve been in a slump. To get two hits in a regional game, it’s unbelievable.”
An error plated Wyzykowski’s courtesy runner, Blake Laferty. Brosher tacked on his third RBI on a single to center, giving him a 2-for-2 night with two walks, and a bad throw from shortstop on Will Perdomo’s two-out grounder brought around the final two runs.
Gainesville committed three errors in that last inning and five overall, while only tallying three hits.
So now the Eagles will turn their attention back to Citrus, but first could revel in leaving a lasting legacy.
“It’s huge,” Brosher said. “Especially since it’s never been done in the history of the school. To be a part of it, it’s an honor.”
Springstead 13, Gainesville 3 (5 inn.)