LAKEWOOD RANCH — During its historic season, the Out-of-Door Academy baseball team posted double-digit victories, rallied from behind and enjoyed walk-off celebrations on more than one occasion.
In fact, the Thunder hadn’t been shut down all season — at least not until the game that mattered the most. Trailing by a game in the best-of-three series, ODA faced a must-win situation to keep its dream season alive.
Unfortunately for ODA, the offensive production that had carried the team all season failed to surface as the Thunder suffered a 4-0 loss to Tampa Cambridge Christian in the second game of the Class 1A-Region 3 championship series May 16.
But even after the final out was made and the Thunder walked off their home field for the final time this season — signaling the end of their historic playoff run — the accomplishments ODA made all season shined brightly. This was a young team that had set 14 new school records, posted the most wins in a single season, won the team’s first district title and advanced to the regional finals for the first time.
So as senior co-captains Taylor Emmons and Tony Gurry walked over to home plate to accept the region’s runner-up trophy, the pair held their heads high.
“I’m just extremely proud of everything that they did this year,” Emmons said. “I mean it was incredible just to get to where we did today, and I can’t ask anything more from them because they gave their best effort."
After falling to the Lancers 4-3 in game 1 of the series, which officially lasted six innings because of rain, the Thunder needed a win to force game 3.
However, Cambridge Christian seemed to always be one step ahead of ODA as the Lancers took an early 2-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning. Andrew Widell scored on a throwing error by Gurry, which allowed Trent Tagliarini to advance to third. Tagliarini then scored on an RBI groundout by Peter Miller.
Cambridge Christian added a pair of insurance runs in the third and fourth innings.
Emmons pitched a complete game for the Thunder in his final prep game, allowing two runs on five hits while striking out three.
The Thunder made some noise of their own with two runners on in the sixth inning, but Lancers pitcher Derek Self forced A.J. Strong and Emmons to fly out to left field. ODA threatened again in the seventh inning when Gurry started the inning off with a single. The senior was later thrown out trying to score on Brody Wiseman’s double.
“This is the first time we’ve ever gotten this far, so you know what everybody says the first time is the hardest to win,” ODA coach Mike Verrill said. “This will (only) help us for next year because they’ll have a better understanding of what it takes.
“This is one of the top teams I’ve ever coached,” he added. “I’m really proud of them. No one at this school has done it before, so how can you get upset with a group of kids that accomplished what they did?”
Contact Jen Blanco at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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