In what turned out to be an ugly game, the Nature Coast Sharks never gave themselves a chance, committing nine errors en route to a 12-2 mercy-rule drubbing at the hands of host and top seed Eustis Wednesday night in the Class 5A, District 7 Tournament semifinals.
“You can't give a team six outs in an inning,” Sharks skipper Vito Tambasco Sr. said “They were the better team, and we didn't help ourselves.”
After getting retired quickly by Alex Hagner, a University of Florida commit, in the top of the first, the Panthers (21-7) came to bat and Austin Simmons laced a single into left.
The following pitch he attempted to steal second and made it to third on an errant thrown by the fifth-seeded Sharks’ (12-14) catcher Connor McCray that ended up in right-center field.
It would be the start of a long night for McCray, who ended up throwing four more into right-center field, for a total of five errors on the night.
Panther catcher and likely first-round draft pick Chris Okey laced a RBI single to score Simmons, and Eustis never looked back.
Eustis would add three more in the first inning, one in the second and seven in the third opening up a 12-0 lead they would never relinquish.
For the Sharks, Drue Brooks accounted for two of the four hits allowed by Hagner, lacing a double and clobbering a fastball over the right-field fence, finally getting the Sharks on the board in the top of the fourth.
Dylan Laudano walked in the top of the fifth, and scored after Robbie Besser and Brandon Lamondra had back-to-back singles, however that would be as close as the Sharks got.
Vito Tambasco Jr threw three innings for the Sharks and allowed the 12 runs, but the errors really cost him according to the Sharks skipper.
“I thought we should have entered the game 0-0 in the third inning” Tambasco Sr. said. “But we made errors and before you know it, it was too late.”
Chris Lake pitched the fourth inning for the Sharks needing 10 pitches to retire the side.
For Eustis, it will move on to the district title game versus Hernando, who defeated Tavares 10-1 in the earlier semifinal game.
The game is sure to draw a crowd, as Arroyo, Okey, and Hagland are all top prospects.
The Sharks head back to the drawing board, but Tambasco didn't seem too down. With a nucleus of young players, led by juniors Lake and Tambasco Jr., the elder Tambasco sees a silver lining, and a bright future ahead of the Sharks.
“Look for us next year,” Tambasco said. “I think we have a state title run in us.”
Eustis 12, Nature Coast 2 (4 1/2 inn.)
NCT 000 11—2 39
NCT – Tambasco, Lake (4) and McCray .
EUS – Hagner and Okey.
W – Hagner (6-2). L – Tambasco (5-6).
2B – Brooks (NCT).
3B – none.
HR – Brooks (NCT).
Records – Eustis (22-7), Nature Coast (12-14).
Class 5A, District 7 Tournament
No. 5 Nature Coast vs. No. 4 Crystal River
Nature Coast def. Crystal River, 2-1
No. 3 Dunnellon vs. No. 6 Tavares
Tavares def. Dunnellon, 6-5
No. 2 Hernando vs. Tavares
Hernando def. Tavares, 10-1
No. 1 Eustis vs. Nature Coast
Eustis def. Nature Coast, 12-2
Eustis vs. Hernando, 7 p.m.