Rain delays couldn’t stop the East Lake Eagles from defeating the Wharton Wildcats 1-0 in 10 innings to advance to the 8A Regional Semifinals.
They will now face Durant on Tuesday at 7 PM at Eagle Field.
Going into the game with a 23-3 record and ranked 14th in the state of Florida, the Eagles appeared to be the favorite, but according to head coach Dan Genna, they came out to play this game as if it was their last. Wharton was also fresh off a strong district tournament, in which they knocked off Newsome and Alonso.
“We knew how good Wharton was and knew it was going to be a battle,” said Genna. "There were two great warriors (East Lake's Ryan Wall & Wharton's Tristan Deluna) out there pitching and they laid everything on the line. We just had to wait and see which would crack first. We just didn’t get rattled.”
The two teams battled it out for seven innings with many chances for both to score runs to take command of the game. Wharton had an opportunity to score in the top of the 2nd and 5th innings with the bases loaded, but it was Wall's power arm that kept the Wildcats in check.
A pitching change came in the seventh inning when third baseman Brad Deppermann stepped in for Wall. He consistently threw fast and away from hitters, getting an edge over the Wharton offense, but walking to the mound, he knew the pressure was on him.
“I came into the inning in a little trouble. I came in bases loaded, two outs and just kept throwing fast. I was hoping after every inning that this game would end soon, but by the 10th, I knew that we had to get something done.
In the bottom of the 10th, with two outs and runners on second and third, lead-off hitter and right fielder for East Lake Troy Strominger delivered a single to left field, allowing Tyler Neuhaus on third to bring in the winning run for the Eagles.
For Neuhaus, it was a relief to see his team jumping over the fence to start the dogpile.
“The run felt great and I had a big smile on my face running down the third base line,” said Neuhaus. “But most of all, the credit goes to Troy (Strominger) for getting that beautiful hit.”
The winning pitcher was Deppermann after throwing three innings and over 60 pitches.
Although they can celebrate tonight, the Eagles have a lot of work to do this weekend in order to prepare for Durant (22-5).
"I’m proud of these guys, they have battled all year,” said Genna. “Their confidence has been great. Come Tuesday we will be ready for them. We know that they have a great ball club too...and we will put our helmets on and go after them. We will be ready for Mr. Valdez and his team.”