Coral Reef Falls To Seminole To Finish As 9A State Runner Up
Those final steps to the summit are always the hardest ones. Playing in the Class 9A state final at Hammond Stadium on Saturday afternoon, the Seminole Seminoles delivered a performance befitting a champion. Channeling all the passion, effort and emotion of their turbulent season, the Seminoles seized their moment and claimed the title as state champions. A solo home run from Mason Mazarredo was the difference, as Seminole prevailed with a 1-0 victory over the Coral Reef Barracudas.
Mazarredo connected on a 2-1 offering in the top of the sixth inning, and the ball carried to bounce off the top of the left field wall and over for the solo home run that was the difference. One almost has to wonder if some force from beyond helped provide the last puff of wind needed to complete the journey, as the team dedicated its entire season in honor of Charlie Schomer, the team’s announcer who passed away after suffering a medical emergency at the team’s first game of the year.
“They made all their plays, and some balls went their way,” Coral Reef manager Chris Leon said. “The kids lived up to that moment. They executed and they got that bomb. I thought my kids fought the whole way through and they deserved to win as well. But there is only one winner, and we didn’t win.”
The Seminoles were certain that Charlie Schomer was watching with pride, and it meant everything to them that they honored his memory by winning a state title. After Seminole manager Kenne Brown found his friend suffering a medical emergency just before the first pitch of the season, it brought a whole new perspective to the Seminole family.
“All I could do was hold him and try to comfort him and tell him everything was going to be okay,” Brown said. “I called Charlie to come announce our games because I knew he would be a professional. I wanted somebody I could trust, and I knew he would love these boys and love being a part of it. He ended up dying a couple of weeks later, so in the back of my mind I ask what would have happened if I hadn’t asked him back. Would he be alive? So I just told my guys that you never know when you are going to go and you have to play like it’s your last day. It was Charlie’s last day that day that he showed up to the ball park. It’s a sad story, but you talk about divine intervention, you better believe it. I think there was somebody behind that. I think Charlie was behind a lot of stuff. This is for Charlie.”
Schomer and every other baseball fan should feel nothing but admiration in how both teams competed. The two sides engaged in a fierce tug-of-war all day long, and when the final result was settled players from both sides saluted one another with dignity and respect.
“Real recognizes real. Game recognizes game,” Coral Reef manager Chris Leon said. “I taught my kids that. They are the state champs. I’m going to clap it up for them. I wish they were in our district and I wish we got to play them more, because those kind of games are fun to be in.”
Seminole manager Kenne Brown echoed those sentiments.
“I knew they were going to be a tough opponent because they played like we did,” Brown said. “They played with emotion, their coach had emotion and they played for their coach like my team plays for me. They don’t want to see each other fail and I think that was evident.”
Charlie McDaniel got the call on the bump for the Seminoles, and he delivered. The left-hander went the full seven innings for the complete-game shutout, holding the Barracudas to six hits and a walk. The southpaw pounded the zone in throwing 66 of his 95 pitches for strikes, and he recorded five strikeouts.
“He’s a smart guy and he knows how to pitch,” Shawn Perez said. “He works low and then comes up with the fastball. He has a nice get-me-over curveball and he knows how to work his curveball a lot. Nothing is overpowering but he knows how to locate. He knows how to paint.”
Coral Reef took a quality approach against McDaniel, and the Barracudas managed base runners in most innings. But the Seminole defense delivered a heroic effort, making big plays over and over to keep Coral Reef at bay. After Michael Ogden laced a double over the left fielder’s head in the fourth, the third baseman snared a hard liner and quickly fired the ball to double off the runner. An inning later Manny Duran singled on a flare to right, but a grounder up the middle was converted into a 6-3 double play.
“We had a lot of chances that the momentum could have switched to our side, and they stopped the bleeding real quick,” Leon said. “We got every ounce of juice from these guys. We were squeezing it out of them and that is why we got to this point.”
Ogden had a nice day at the plate to lead the Barracudas, going 2-for-3 with three total bases.
“I just got ahead early and that really helped,” Ogden said. “He tried to get me with the get-me-over curveball that was working all game, but to me he didn’t throw it first-pitch for a strike. So with a guy like that I know when I am 1-0, I am hunting heat. My second hit was a fastball 1-0 right after he missed a curveball. He made some good pitches but he just left one over the plate.”
Thirty-six teams advance to the state Final Four each season, and most times there are teams that make it there for the first time. If that teams does not come home a champion, oftentimes the pain of that leaves players and coaches devastated and inconsolable. At game’s end, Coral Reef stood proud and saluted the worthy opponent that had narrowly defeated them, and then they celebrated a season that brought the best out of a group of ball players that achieved more than any others that had ever worn their uniform before.
“I’ve been a part of baseball here at Coral Reef since my freshman year, and since we got Coach it was just a momentum change,” senior Brent Cosculluela said. “He loves his job and he loves the game, and he really shows it and it rub off on us. There are some of our seniors that started the year and they didn’t really want to play college baseball, but I think with Coach’s drive and the way we’ve been playing and how the year has turned out, that is all they want to do. This being their last game is totally heart-breaking for them. It’s been a great season.”
While those less-qualified to make such opinions might have doubted the Barracudas this season, the team showed in every action what a quality program it is. Production on the field led to more wins and a historic playoff run, but any true baseball fan can appreciate most the passion the team brings to the game. The 2019 Coral Reef baseball team played in the final game of the season because the team loved playing baseball, and that love is surely only to keep growing from here.