Mack Estrada backflipped with sheer excitement after his team won the Class 3A, Region 2 semifinal 11-1 over Tampa Prep Saturday night at Lakeland Christian School.
The reason being: the starting pitcher struck out seven, walked four and allowed just one earned run, two hits in five innings of action, four scoreless innings and one 1-2-3 inning.
He is also 8-0 this year.
A simple backflip was symbiotic of the seminal performance the first-year varsity pitcher produced against the No. 22 team in 3A. But really, it was just a gesture he’s always done to hype everyone up.
In the end, it was all about his approach on the mound.
“The whole week I had been working on my pitches (so I) can get a feel for it and whenever I got into the game, I was just confident with all my stuff so I could throw without having to worry too much,” Estrada said.
There was no reason for Estrada to worry. The right-hander was whizzing the baseball in the low-90s, perfectly setting up hitters for his sliders — a pitch he retired numerous batters with.
His pitches kept the Tampa offense at bay, too, which allowed the Lakeland Christian offense to open up the game. Soon-to-be Division I player Brody Donay hit a two-run shot in the bottom of the third — his ninth of the year — to make the score 3-1 and RBI singled in the bottom of the fourth to make the score 8 -one.
Donay was 2-for-3 with three RBIs; shortstop Wyatt Jenkins went 2-for-3 with an RBI and right fielder Colby Brewington hit 2-for-3, too, which increased the total amount of hits to eight for the Vikings.
“…Basically my first at-bat I had a strikeout and kind of learned what he was doing to me — just throwing everything away and off-speed — so I adjusted my next at-bat and barreled up a curveball up the middle,” Donay said. “…It feels good. Everybody’s doing their job. Everybody can produce, not one person is doing it by themselves.”
The game eventually ended in the bottom of the fifth thanks to Jenkins singling on a hard groundball to Tampa Bay Prep pitcher Alex Lacy, who had trouble fielding the hard shot. This was right after Tampa Bay Prep intentionally walked Donay.
A win ensured Lakeland Christian advancing to the regional final for the first time in three years.
“…Those guys like Brody and people who have been in the program long have a taste of this and they know this is a fun time of year,” Lakeland Christian coach Matt Diaz said. “We say pressure is the fear of failure, and we think we’ve prepared well enough that we don’t have to fear failure. There maybe some failure, but that’s what playing the games are for, so no matter who we play next, it’s going to be an absolute dogfight. We’re one game away from state, and we’re excited about that.”
Lakeland Christian (22-5), the No. 8 team in the class, will next play Berkeley Prep (25-3), the No. 2 team in 3A in the regional finals, 7 pm, Tuesday at home.