The one and only state championship win for the Barron Collier baseball program came back in 1997, when the Cougars knocked off Dunedin to hoist the hardware.
On Tuesday night, Barron Collier (20-9) and Dunedin (14-15) met nearly 20 years later in the Class 6A regional final. Again, the Cougars got the best of the Falcons, the only Collier County public school left in the playoffs, earning a dominant 7-1 victory.
Now, the Cougars are one win away from ending a two-decade hiatus.
“It’s unbelievable. I can’t say enough about them [the kids], you know, they work their tails off. It’s unbelievable,” head coach Charlie Maurer reiterated after the win.
After Barron Collier starting pitcher Nick Geller struck out two of the first three Falcon batters he faced in the top of the first, the Cougars didn’t waste any time.
His team came out in the bottom of the first inning with a bang, catcher Marc Coffers blasting a triple for the Cougars’ first hit of the night. One batter later, cleanup hitter Logan Langham stepped up big and delivered an RBI single to make it 1-0 Cougars.
Then, through four full innings, Geller had a no-hitter going into the top of the fifth. But John Paul Andrade, from the seventh spot in the Falcon lineup, ended the no-hitter with a bunt down the third base line.
When Geller stepped off the mound after five, that was the only hit he allowed.
“He’s unreal. What he has done the last couple of starts you just don’t do. To go out there and throw a one-hitter in a regional final game and not even bat an eye, he’s just so calm when he’s out there. He’s just been dominant,” Maurer said of his ace.
The Falcons’ ace didn’t fair nearly as well on Tuesday night, as Tampa Bay University-bound Colton Widdows gave up six hits in a complete effort.
In the bottom half of the fourth and fifth innings, the Cougars added runs two and three, Brock Nichols and Gabe Noguera each pulled off suicide squeeze plays to give the home team a 3-0 lead over the visiting Falcons.
“We gave them a game plan and they executed it to perfection. It was a situation where we knew what we had to do, they had a good lefty [Widdows]; we’ve prepared for him all week. This is the type of team, you tell them to go and they just play fetch. They buy in and you could see it there at the end.”
To finish off the Falcons, the Cougars used the bottom of the sixth inning to add insurance runs in bonus fashion.
At the top of the lineup, Marcus Crabtree hit an RBI single to make it 4-0. Next, number two batter Billy Zeliff stepped up and hit a squeeze RBI. Then, Crabtree reached home plate as the Cougars scored on a Falcon error. And for run number three of the inning, Coffers hit another suicide squeeze to make it a 7-0 score.
Coffers led the Cougars from the plate from the number three spot in the order, going 2-of-3 with a walk and an RBI. For the Falcons, Ray Sass recorded the team’s second hit of the game in the top of the seventh inning on a stand-up double RBI.
“This is just a scrappy group. You have guys that haven’t picked up a baseball in three years that are football players. They just come together, and they’re not scared. They just come out and play,” Maurer voiced.
The Cougars will return to the diamond on a bigger stage next game, as they advance to the FHSAA State Baseball Championship final four, where they will play Mosley in the semifinal at JetBlue Park next Wednesday, May 18.
“It’s a dream. To be in Fort Myers and go in there with the big boys, it’s just great.”
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