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Ruiz Miracle Catch Lifts Windermere To 7A State Final

The Wolverines mob right fielder Randy Ruiz after his miraculous catch saved the game for the final out.

Box Score

Did you see that catch?

Friday night’s 7A state semifinal between the Windermere Wolverines and the Timber Creek Wolves will be remembered as an all-time classic. This tight battle featured two of Orlando’s best competing at a very high level for the chance to play in the state championship. From the very first pitch, it was baseball at its finest. But it was the final play that stole the show for a dramatic grand finale.

Trailing by a run with two guys on base, down to their final strike on their final out, the Wolves got a solid contact on a swing that saw the ball soaring deep to the right-center field gap off of the bat of senior Tyler Mendoza. If that ball hit the grass, Timber Creek would not only tie the score, but likely take the lead, with both runners off and running on contact.

Windermere right fielder Randy Ruiz makes a miraculous catch for the final out in Friday’s 2-1 state semifinal victory over Timber Creek. Two runners were stranded on base on the play.

Except that Windermere right fielder Randy Ruiz sprinted deep in chase, diving out at the last moment to snare the ball in his glove as he stumbled to a belly flop at the warning track. As Ruiz stood back up and turned around, he watched as all his teammates mobbed towards him to celebrate the 2-1 victory that spectacular play had just cemented.

“I don’t know what I did; I just jumped for it,” Ruiz said. “I just saw the ball in the air, and I knew I was going to do whatever it takes to win this game for us. We need this as a school. I love these players, they mean a lot to me, and I love these coaches. It’s the best feeling ever. That’s my dream. I cannot even express how I feel right now.”

This amazing final moment served as the last exclamation point on a game that featured two true heavyweights competing at their finest level on the biggest stage. Runs were tough to come by with the high-caliber pitching and defense both clubs featured.

Brody Juntunen went the distance on the mound for the Wolves, allowing two earned runs on seven hits and two walks, with four strikeouts.

“Our kids left it all out there. I could not be prouder of this group,” Timber Creek Manager Tim Beaman said. “It came down to an incredible catch. They had one more timely hit than us, and we both had seven hits. We expected a low-scoring, close game and we got what we expected. But we just didn’t end up on top. Baseball is tough. I’ve seen a lot of catches in my ten years of coaching at Timber Creek, and that is the best catch I’ve ever seen. It took a diving catch on the track to beat us, and that is pretty amazing.”

Both sides played a crisp, clean and competitive game that left fans wondering how either could be defeated. There were no errors committed in the game, despite the fact that 35 total outs were recorded on balls put in play.

“A lot of credit to their program; they’ve had a great season. We had a great season, and that is what you’re supposed to do when you get in this situation,” Beaman said. “It’s never easy to lose, but I’m glad we played a solid baseball game. The last time we played them we didn’t play very well.”

All of the runs came in the fifth inning.

With both starters pounding the strike zone and limiting base runners, Timber Creek (24-7) finally cracked the scoreboard in the top of the inning. Brian Kendall split the left-center field gap for a standup, lead-off double. He then advanced to third when Michael Thomas flied out deep to right field, and he came home for a 1-0 Wolves lead when Gabe Decardonis smacked an RBI single to center.

Timber Creek kept applying pressure in an attempt to increase that slim lead. Zach Farah was hit by a pitch, which prompted a call to the bullpen for reliever Jack Waddingham. But David Colmanerez promptly greeted him by lacing the first pitch over the shortstop to load the bases. A flyout to left field could not get a run home, as left fielder Gabriel Rodriguez showcased his cannon of an arm to fire the ball to the plate. The next out also went harmlessly into Rodriguez’s waiting glove.

Connor Fink made the start for the Wolverines, tossing 4.1 innings while allowing one earned run on three hits and a walk, with two strikeouts.

That momentum carried over to the plate. Rodriguez led off by driving a base hit past the diving second baseman, and he moved into scoring position thanks to a bunt from Jose Calzadilla. Ruiz then tied the game by lining an RBI single past third, and next Jack Waddingham rolled a single straight up the middle to send the winning run across the plate.

“It just feels great, because that was a big at bat,” Jack Waddingham said. “I had some big opportunities the last few at bats and I didn’t do the job. I was happy that at bat I could get it done, and it happened to be the game-winning run. I have not played in an environment like this in a long time. But when you’re on a roll and you’re hitting, it just carries to the next guy. All you have to do is pass the bat and everyone will hit.”

That contagious hitting fueled Timber Creek in the top of the seventh. Down to their final outs and needing a run to tie, Michael Thomas and Zach Farah both singled to put the winning run on the bases against Wolverines closer Cruz Warp. But Warp got Cardenas to fly out, and he also recorded a strikeout to bring it all down to the final out and Ruiz’s big moment.

Brian Kendall was 1-for-3 with a double, and he scored the only run for the Wolves.

Now there is but one challenge left, as the Wolverines (28-3) will take on the Douglas Eagles in Saturday’s 7A state final. The Eagles (25-5) advanced with an 8-7 win over the Vero Beach Indians in Friday’s other 7A semifinal, and the program is chasing its fourth straight state title.

“This whole time, I’ve been sure that this team had the ability to make it to the state final championship,” Ruiz said. “I had a dream that we won states, and I hope that we can do this, and prove to the world that we’re good enough to do it.”

Just reaching the finale is historical for the Windermere program, a team only in its seventh season of existence.

“To be able to do this my senior year, and especially to have my brother playing, it’s crazy,” Jack Waddingham said, while referring to his brother, Joey. “All the work that we made the in weight room in the offseason, and the work during this season, it all paid off. We get to play one more game of baseball and finish on a good note.”

Cruz Warp pitched the seventh to earn the save for the Wolverines.

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