Clemente’s HR Lifts Douglas Past Columbus 7-5 in 7A Regional Final

Junior pitcher Christian Rodriguez was not only the winning pitcher but hit the eventual game-winning three-run home run in the bottom of the fifth inning to help the Eagles to a 7-5 victory over Columbus.

Clemente’s HR Lifts Douglas Past Columbus 7-5 in 7A Regional Final

By Dave Brousseau

BCAA Writer

PARKLAND – Innings were running short for the Stoneman Douglas baseball team and so were its chances to successfully defend a Class 7A state and National Championship.

Christopher Columbus on the other hand seemed poised to pull the upset.

Not so fast.

Senior outfielder Jake Clemente connected on a two-out 3-2 pitch for a deep fly ball that exited the center-field fence for a three-run homer to rally the Eagles from a 4-2 deficit to a 7-4 lead in the bottom of the fifth inning.

It was Clemente’s fourth homer of the season.

Douglas held on for the 7-5 victory.

The Eagles’ (28-2) victory extended their school record winning streak to 20 games. It also advanced the team to the state semifinals on Friday at Hammond Stadium in Fort Myers.

The 28th victory of the season also set a school record. The 14-0 record at home was also a first for the Eagles.

Should Douglas win another state title, it would the first time that a Broward County team in the upper classification would have back-to-back titles since Flanagan in 2005-06 season.   

“Their pitcher kept coming with the slider and I sat on that’s, and I was ready to crush it and that’s what I did,” said Clemente. “We felt no pressure being down and felt that we would come back.”

The Eagles’ victory was the fourth straight over Columbus and third in a row in the playoffs. Douglas defeated the Explorers 3-2 in last year’s state semifinal and 3-0 in the 2016 state championship

“It’s never easy in this type of atmosphere,” said Douglas coach Todd Fitz-Gerald. “Everything worked out and I think we are the best team. They were a lot tougher than last year.

As for Clemente’s home run.

“Jake had two not so good at bats,” said Fitz-Gerald. “Their pitcher hung a slider and Jake put it over the fence. No one will remember what he did in his first two at bats, but they will remember the one he hit over the fence.”

Christian Rodriguez (7-1), despite allowing four runs, earned the victory. Chris Arroyo entered the game in the top of the sixth to earn the save.

“Douglas is No. 1 or No. 2 in the country for a reason,” said Columbus coach Joe Weber. “They are a great team and made a ton of great plays tonight. I was proud of our guys and the way they battled.”

Down by three runs the Explorers closed the deficit by one following an RBI single by Nick Mora. Down 7-5 in the top of the seventh, they would need more.

Columbus had extended its lead to 4-2 in the top of the fifth inning on an RBI single by Mike Corral.

Douglas got an early 2-0 lead in the bottom of the first inning on an RBI single to left center by Santiago Ordonez that scored senior Roman Anthony from second. Anthony reached base with a lead-off single to open the game.

Ordonez added the second run on a throwing error to home when Cameron Harris, who had reached on a single was able to avoid being caught on a steal attempt with a throw to home that was high over the Columbus catcher Anthony Gonzalez head.  

The Explorers (22-7) sliced the lead in half in the top of the second when Luis Miguel scored from third when a throw from short to first wasn’t in time to get Franklin Francisco for the third out of the inning.

Columbus took a 3-2 lead in the top of the fourth on a two-run single over second base, that allowed Corral and Julien Gonzalez to cross home plate.