LAKELAND- Thanks to a pitcher making his first start since his senior year of high school, the College of Central Florida baseball team lived to see another day in the FCSAA Baseball Tournament.
Collin Woody went the distance and hit a solo homer, as the Patriots staved off elimination with a 4-2 win over Gulf Coast State on Monday afternoon at Joker Marchant Stadium.
"He had a great performance and the thing that he did was he just went out and pitched," said CF coach Marty Smith. "He didn't overthrow and try to light up the gun. He was feeling under the weather in the morning and he got up and moved around during batting practice and really went out and pitched well.
"He was awesome. Plus, he had the solo homer. It was a great day for Collin."
With the win, CF (35-18) will face Miami Dade College (33-15) on Wednesday morning at 10 a.m. in an elimination game. The winner between the Patriots and Sharks will face Polk State (39-13) for the state championship 30 minutes following the completion of the opener.
Miami Dade also stayed alive on Tuesday, as it knocked off Polk State 4-0. Polk entered Tuesday as the lone unbeaten team in the tournament, but will now be involved in a winner-take-all game against the CF/MDC winner with its ace Casey Kulina (12-0, 2.50 ERA) on the mound in hopes of winning its second state title in three years.
The first game on Wednesday is a rematch between CF and MDC from earlier in the tournament.
The Patriots scored four times in the bottom of the eighth and rallied from a three-run deficit to knock off the Sharks 7-6 on Sunday night.
This time around, CF will start its ace Boomer Biegalski in hopes of gaining a trip to its first national tournament since 1998. Biegalski (8-3) went the distance last Friday night in a 7-3 win over Chipola College, which had recently been the No. 1 ranked team in the nation.
"We feel great with Boomer on the mound and he gives us a chance to beat anybody," said Smith.
If the Patriots can navigate through the final day, they would claim their first state championship since 1998 and fourth trip to the NJCAA World Series, which takes place in Grand Junction, Colo.
CF won under Smith in 1997-98 and also earned the championship in 1980 under coach Tommy Blankenship after Pensacola forfeited the title following a 2-1 loss by the Patriots.
To have a chance for its first trip to the Rocky Mountains and nationals in 16 years, CF once again got a tremendous team effort and continued a trend where different players step up at different times.
The main one was Woody, who in his first start at the collegiate level, delivered in a big way. The right-hander went all nine innings and allowed just two runs on five hits. He walked just one and struck out five.
Woody needed 122 pitches, 74 for strikes, to post CF's second complete game of the tournament and sixth all-time in state tournament play.
With the game on the line, Woody got out of a bases-loaded, one-out jam in the fifth after Gulf Coast had sliced the Patriots lead in half. It was a huge effort for sophomore, whose longest outing of the season and his CF career was a three-inning effort in a 7-6 win over Lake Sumter on March 31 of this year. His last outing before Tuesday took place on April 21 against Pasco-Hernando Community College and lasted 2 1/3 innings.
Entering the game against the Commodores, who survived with a late rally in a 5-4 win over Tallahassee on Monday, Woody had made 10 appearances and had a 2.51 ERA. It was the second career win for Woody at CF. His only other victory as a member of the Patriot program came on January 26, 2013 in a 13-inning marathon triumph over Indian River State.
Woody, whose only career appearance against Gulf Coast resulted in a save in February 24 of last year, was 9-2 with a 1.96 ERA as a senior at Tampa Wharton.
His first start since April 17, 2012 as a member of the Wharton program against Tampa Leto, was one for the ages for the Patriots, who finished 2-0 against Panhandle Conference opponents in this year's state tournament..
After he allowed the Commodores to jump to a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first, Woody promptly tied the score with a solo homer to lead off the second. Woody's homer was his fourth of the season and fifth of his career. It was also his first home run since his two-homer effort against Santa Fe on April 9 in a 22-4 rout.
This shot by Woody jumpstarted the Patriots, who scored three times in the inning.
Justin Ambrosino followed with a walk and Colby Brown was hit by a pitch. From there, CF's David Lugo laid down a sacrifice bunt and A.J. Elkins walked to load the bases. Ryan Crile gave the Patriots the lead for good with a run-scoring single, before Christian Khawam rounded out the scoring in the second with a sacrifice fly.
Khawam extended CF's lead to 4-1 in the fifth with a solo homer, his third round-tripper of the tournament.
The Commodores got the run back in their half of the fifth, but Woody shut them down the rest of the way.
Crile (2-for-5, RBI), Khawam (3-for-4, run scored, two RBI), and Enderson Velasquez (1-for-4) led the way for CF at the plate. For Khawam, his effort on Tuesday came after a 1-for-7 effort over his last two games, following his two-homer effort against Chipola last Friday. The freshman backed Woody and helped the Patriots keep their run going. Meanwhile, Velasquez improved to 7-for-16 at the plate for the tournament.