West Orange Remains Atop 9A-3 With Win Over Lake Brantley
In a wild game Wednesday night in Winter Garden, two district rivals that are also at the top of the Orlando Power Rankings met in a pivotal contest. The #2 West Orange Warriors took on the #3 Lake Brantley Patriots for bragging rights at the top of the 9A-3 district. With a plethora of scouts at the field watching some amazing talent, the scene was set for a game for the ages.
The game went to extra innings. With two outs and a runner on third in the bottom of the eighth, Warriors manager Jesse Marlo called for a suicide-squeeze bunt which worked to perfection. Doug Nikhazy laid down a beautiful squeeze bunt to allow Deandre Shelton to cross the plate and West Orange to claim the 4-3 win.
West Orange (17-2) improved to 5-0 to lead 9A-3, while the Patriots remain right in the hunt at 15-4 overall and 5-2 in the district.
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill commit Tyler Baum was given the nod for the host Warriors. Baum was absolutely dominant early, only allowing one runner on base in the first two innings.
It wasn’t until the top of the third where Baum found himself in his first jam. A one-out single by designated hitter Austin Makarewicz ended up becoming the first run of the game, after Makarewicz scored when Paxton Rigby drew a bases-loaded walk.
Baum was able to work out of the third when Patriots star catcher Luis Olivier flew out to right fielder Doug Nikhazy. The Warriors were tied with the Patriots after three innings.
The fourth saw the most action in an inning that lasted over an hour and was packed with emotion. The Patriots took the lead when Connor McDonald hit an opposite-field blast over the right field fence for a two-run home run. McDonald also drove in teammate Alex Wills, who reached base safely after a dropped third strike.
A scary moment came in the bottom of the fourth for Lake Brantley star third baseman, Griffin Bernardo. A first-pitch line drive got him straight in the right cheek. He was helped off the field by the West Orange Athletics medical staff, his father, and a few teammates. Later, it was reported he needed stitches inside his mouth but there was no severe damage otherwise. A prayer for Griffin was sent out by many in the stands and on the field.
Losing Bernardo out of the Patriot’s third spot in the lineup was a big hit to their offense. They failed to score another run for the rest of the game.
West Orange slowly battled back after that. Left fielder and winning pitcher Ethan Jones was an animal. He had back-to-back run scoring doubles in the fourth and fifth inning to tie the game at three.