But by the end of the inning, all they could do was watch Lake Minneola’s players dogpile in the infield and endure the sting of losing the district championship on their home turf.
Despite a valiant effort from sophomore Jake Tompkins on the mound, the Knights lost 2-1 to Lake Minneola (17-7), forcing the Knights (15-10) to go on the road to start the state playoffs.
Vanguard has reached the state tournament for the first time since Vanguard coach Scott Schaub’s first season as a coach in 2017.
“Tough one, heartbreaker, heartbroken for the kids,” Schaub said. “I thought we had the opportunities, the chances, you know, to come out of here with the win.
“Tough, tough ballgame, but there’s always a winner and a loser. And unfortunately, we’re on the losing side of things.”
It was a pitchers’ duel between Tompkins and Lake Minneola starter Parker Fenton from start to finish. The two pitchers stonewalled their opposition for five straight innings. Fenton was throwing a perfect game through the first five innings, but the Knights finally put themselves on the scoreboard in the sixth.
First baseman Michael Long reached on an error and then moved to second on a bunt. He touched home on an RBI single to give Vanguard a 1-0 lead. The Knights threatened again in the inning after a walk put runners on first and second, but Fenton escaped the inning without further damage.
Through six innings, aside from getting out of a two-out, bases loaded jam in the third inning, Tompkins was dominant. After Vanguard couldn’t score any runs in the top of the seventh, all he needed to do was produce three more outs.
After a leadoff single, Tompkins fielded a bunt, but his throw was in the dirt and couldn’t be handled, putting runners on first and third.
After a strikeout, Tompkins snagged a high chopper and threw it to home, but the tying run scored anyway.
Schaub made a change on the mound, but it couldn’t prevent Lake Minneola from taking the victory. First baseman Michael Long hesitated after cleanly fielding a grounder and then threw it home. That was enough to beat the throw home and end the game.
Schaub now has to get his team ready for the state tournament next week.
“I like my chances for next week,” Schaub said. “I wouldn’t pick anyone else to go on this journey with. Even if we got to travel next week, I think we’ve got a great chance to compete and make a playoff push and maybe go for a Final Four run.”