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Elias Spins Gem For Seminole Ridge In 8A-12 Championship

With a 1-0 victory on Thursday night over the Wolverines, the Hawks clinched their first-ever District title.

Drenched in sweat and holding back tears, Seminole Ridge manager Trent Pendergast had problems finding the right words to say on Thursday night following the Hawks’ 1-0 win over the Wellington Wolverines. With a manager on a team that had just won its first district title, struggling for words amidst the emotion and the joy was to be expected. That was, however, until Pendergast found himself soaked in cold, ice water courtesy of a spilled cooler by his ecstatic players.

“It feels awesome. This is our first ever district championship in our eleventh year and I’m just speechless,” Pendergast admitted. “At this level of the season, it’s just the smallest things change the whole game. Our fast guys have been working all year on hitting lefties the other way, we got a nice ground ball in the hole, and both our pitching and defense were phenomenal. These are the differences in the game and you’ll see in districts and regionals that one tiny little thing will make a big difference.”

The Hawks, who went 19-5-1 in the regular season and beat this same Wolverines team twice, were led by senior Anthony Elias. With his team needing him at his best, Elias worked out of trouble all night and, most importantly, didn’t allow any runs to score in his six innings of work.

“This feels amazing. We’ve worked so hard for it. This is the first time we’ve ever done it and we are so psyched,” Elias said. “The bond on this team is incredible and we’re a real team. We work on everything together and we win together. We came in tonight like we always do: trying to get outs, get out of the inning, and try to get on the board as much as we can.”

Wellington didn’t shy away from Elias’ strong efforts on the mound. In the fourth inning, the Wolverines loaded the bases with two outs in the former before Elias induced a groundout to third base. In the fifth, Angelo Brunelas made it to second base and nearly scored before second baseman Ryan Stark was called out at first base on a very close play. Matthew Brewster doubled with two outs in the sixth, but was stranded there thanks to a groundout in the next at-bat.

“Elias didn’t even have his best stuff tonight, but he grinded and hit his spots when he needed to,” Pendergast added of his star senior. “We talk about this all the time in practice: great pitching, great defense, and great hitting. You see what you can do, because at this level, you have to scrap one or two runs on the board and make sure your pitching guides you.”

With six shutout innings on Thursday night, Hawks senior Anthony Elias was vital in his team's 1-0 win.

For Wellington, the loss stung big for the upperclassmen-heavy team. Manager Scott Riddle, however, didn’t let the loss dampen his spirit as he watched his players walk off the field.

“We’re moving on. That’s the bottom line, and we’re not dead yet,” Riddle said. “We’ve got a chance to beat a great team up in Lakeland and then we’ve got to beat the winner of Seminole Ridge’s game. Look, the breaks are going to go our way or we’re going to get our butts kicked. Our defense has been fine all year, our pitching obviously is very, very good. But our problem is very obvious and that’s two-out hits. I’m not going to change anything; we work every day on hitting, we work every day on a good, aggressive approach. The kids are either going to do it or they won’t. We’re going to need help from the umps, help from the other team’s defense, and help from our guys.”

Seminole Ridge scored its only run of the game in second inning when, after a double from designated hitter Andrew Attaway, center fielder Justin Reyes reached on an infield hit to third base to drive Attaway in. After scoring six runs in Monday’s victory over Royal Palm Beach and putting at least seven runs on the board in their final four games of the regular season, the quiet output on offense was surprising for the Falcons. Pendergast, though, didn’t seem fazed by things at all.

“When you face a guy like Brunelas who can throw three pitches for strikes, there’s not much you can do against a guy like that on the high school level,” Pendergast explained. “The time of day was a little tough with the sun blasting, especially with a left-handed pitcher against a left-handed hitter, and I don’t even know if I’d be able to see the ball.”

Wolverines senior third baseman Dom Paolo had one of his team's few hits in the loss, singling in the first inning.

Brunelas pitched five innings of one-run ball before being relieved in the sixth inning for junior Luke Panakos, who struck out one and walked around a two-out walk. Even with the tough second inning, Brunelas didn’t allow his confidence to be rattled and even added a single at the plate in the fifth inning.

“His stuff is always good. He’s a little bit effectively wild, but his stuff is always good,” Riddle said of the left-handed junior. “He keeps us in every game and he seemed to have a bit of focus both on the mound and at the plate. To shut down a 20-win team to only one run is a pretty big thing to do and that’s what Angelo does. He’s a battler and he doesn’t find many bats, but he’s a good little pitcher.”

The final word goes to Pendergast, who described the magical run his Hawks have gone over the past few weeks by keeping things short and sweet.

“This is awesome,” he said.

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