Deerfield Beach Junior Baseball Team Places at State
The junior division team from Deerfield Beach Little League had never been to the Florida state baseball tournament. That all changed on July 21 when the 2013 team won the Section 8 tournament, making them the Broward/Miami-Dade/Keys representative hosted by the Palma Ceia Little League in Tampa.
The state tournament brought together the eight Florida sectional champions. Friday and Saturday included pool play with the top two teams from each pool qualifying for the two elimination games on Sunday.
By the end of the day on Saturday, the team had played their way into the state semifinals with two impressive victories, making them one of the final four teams remaining. The boys were confident and had the state title in their sights. But two unfortunate injuries and a tremendous pitching performance by the starter from South Fort Myers on Sunday morning were just too much to overcome as they were eliminated 4-1 in a hard fought game.
As runners up in pool B, Deerfield faced the winners of pool A and Section 6 Champions South Fort Myers in the first semifinal game Sunday morning.
South Fort Myers took a 1-0 lead in the top half of the first. Deerfield’s lead off hitter and short stop, Keshawn Herring, was hit on his left elbow by a hard fastball. Although in pain, Herring stayed in the game and proceeded to steal second and third before being stranded to end the scoring threat. Herring’s elbow injury eventually required Alec Brown to replace him in the third inning and Brown played an outstanding defensive game. Adding to Herring’s injury, starting pitcher Dalton Williams could not return to the mound in the fourth inning due to soreness in his pitching elbow. Conrad Schlegel was brought in with Deerfield Beach trailing only 2-0.
South Fort Myers would score one run in the fourth and another in the fifth. But the defense played strong, led by Rafael Santos who made several outstanding plays at first base. Matt Calvin and Zach Audet rounded out the infield as outfielders Patrick Heekin, Austin Carney, Jonathan Machado and Shane Lovello kept the game within reach with their gloves.
Although limited to only two hits entering their final at bat, Deerfield Beach fought to the very end. Williams started a two out rally in the bottom of the seventh with a single, his second hit of the game. Brett Beuchert followed with a double down the left field line that scored Williams from first and drew the score closer at 4-1. But the comeback bid fell short as Schlegel, looking for his second hit of the game to keep the rally going, went down swinging for the final out.
Saturday’s first opponent was Section 4 Champion Braden River (Bradenton). Audet was back on the hill as the starter. Audet kept BradenRiver off the scoreboard, limiting them to only two hits through four full innings. Deerfield opened up a 5-0 lead in the second with five base hits and RBI’s from Williams and Calvin. Deerfield extended their lead to 10-0 with another five run inning in the third. Machado’s RBI single started the scoring and Carney finished it off with a 3 run homer over the left-centerfield fence. The left handed tandem of Santos and Schlegel closed the sixth and seventh innings to preserve the victory and clinched an automatic berth in the semifinals.
The final game of pool play Saturday was against Section 7 Champion Palma Ceia/Bayshore (Tampa). With neither team needing a victory to advance, both teams conserved their pitchers. It was a competitive game through four innings with Deerfield leading 6-4. But a huge top of the fifth inning by Palma Ceia/Bayshore ended the game by the ten run mercy rule after five innings.
Deerfield Beach’s Friday night opening 12-4 victory over Section 1 Champion Shalimar (Panhandle) did not come until the early hours of Saturday morning. Starting pitcher Audet struck out two batters in the first inning and Williams provided the early offense with an RBI single in the first to jump out to a 2-0 lead. Williams then doubled and drove in another run to give Deerfield Beach a 3-2 lead after three innings. But Shalimar answered with two runs in fourth to take a 4-3 lead.
Williams came in relief for Brown in the top of the fifth, who had pitched three solid middle relief innings and kept the score virtually even. Williams struck out the side, setting up a big fifth inning rally by Deerfield.
Deerfield drew two walks and erupted with four base hits and scored four runs. The biggest play was a suicide squeeze bunt by Lovello that scored two runs and shifted momentum Deerfield’s way for good.
Entering the top of the sixth with a 7-4 lead, Schlegel retired all three batters he faced, striking out two. Again Deerfield poured on the runs in the bottom of the sixth with base hit RBI’s by Williams and Beuchert and an RBI double by Brown that extended the lead to 12-4. The late start and long game forced the umpires to suspend play at 12:45 A.M. Tournament rules prohibit the start of a new inning past 12:30 A.M. It was first believed that the game would be completed Sunday morning. But at 1:15 A.M. tournament officials declared it a complete game and awarded Deerfield Beach the win.
After defeating Section 2 Champion Eau Gallie (Melbourne) 12-2 in the other semifinal on Sunday, Palma Ceia / Bayshore won the state championship Monday morning with a commanding victory over South Fort Myers 16-0.
Please see the table below for the full roster of the 2013 DBLL All Star Teams: