Fort Walton Beach baseball’s Cinderella run in the District 1-6A tournament run ended with a loss Thursday night.
Their postseason run, though, hasn’t struck midnight just yet.
The Vikings lost 4-3 to host West Florida Tech in the district championship despite leading 3-2 in the sixth inning. But after upsetting top-seeded Gulf Breeze 3-2 Tuesday night to punch their playoff ticket, the Vikings will live to play another day.
“We were a little dejected last night because it’s tough to go out and have the lead and not close it out,” said Brian McDaniel, Fort Walton Beach’s skipper. “We just left runners on base all night long. It’s one of those games where I think we outplayed them but they just had hits at the right moments.
“But we’re playing our best ball right now and we’re just looking to continue that.”
McDaniel’s crew travels to District 2-6A champ Mosley on Tuesday for a 7 p.m. first pitch. Mosley is 20-5 and coming off an 8-1 win over Arnold in Thursday night’s title match. The Dolphins have made five straight trips to the regional finals with four Final Four trips and three state finals appearances during that span.
“They’re a phenomenal program that’s been very successful in the last several years,” McDaniel said. “I know coach (Jon) Hudson personally and he does a great job with them. Their kid on the mound, Brayden Gainey, that’s one of the best pitchers in the area and he’s like 8-0 with a something like a .84 ERA. I assume they’ll throw him.
“They just play the right ray and they probably hit more home runs than anyone in the area. They swing as well as any team in the area. It’ll be a tough task for us and it will have to be a 4-3, 3-2 type of game like we’ve been winning lately for us to advance. I don’t know if we can line up and swing it with them.”
Toeing the mound on Tuesday will be Tobias Ward-Boulden with Cam Gagliano available in the pen.
“He’s been really good his last few starts and hopefully he can go out there and get it done and the defense plays well behind him,” McDaniel said of Ward-Boulden.
Boding well for the Vikings, who enter the postseason 11-17, is that they’re playing their best ball of the year. And they were nearly district champs.
Trailing 1-0 in the top of the third, Justice Lucas drove in Hayden Hubbard with an RBI single and later scored alongside Griffin Wilbur on a Ward-Boulden two-run triple to put the Vikings up 3-1.
The Jaguars, who were out-hit nine to five by the Vikings and silenced for the most part in Gagliano’s complete game, responded with a run in the fourth and then scored two runs in the sixth inning on a two-out triple and balk.
The Vikings stranded two runners in the seventh to finish as district runners-up.
At the dish, Ward-Boulden went 2-for-4 with two RBI, Lucas went 2-for-4 with an RBI and Gagliano went 2-for-3. Wilbur, Alex Holz and Robbie Leach each had a base knock.