EAGLES 7, FALCONS 6 (9 Inn.)

FORT MYERS – A fourth state championship appearance in program history was not meant to be Monday night.

A late lead slipped away from Dunedin and Coconut Creek North Broward Prep just had a little more left in the tank as the game extended into extra innings. The Eagles came back from two down in the seventh and one down in the eighth before Josh Steidl sent a game-winning double into right-center field, clinching a 7-6 victory in nine innings that advances North Broward Prep to its first-ever state championship game.

The Eagles (20-10-1) will face Citra North Marion on Tuesday at 7 p.m. The Colts won Monday afternoon’s initial Class 4A semi by no-hitting Nature Coast Tech. The results denied the possibility of an all-Tampa Bay title game, similar to when Dunedin faced Jesuit in the 2019 Class 6A final.

Monday night’s game couldn’t have started out much better for the Falcons, as the Dunedin lineup was all over North Broward Prep starter Shane Huntsberger. Dunedin scored five runs on eight hits in the first two frames, ending the Western Carolina commit’s evening in the process.

The Eagles got on the board with two in the second to slow Dunedin’s momentum and cut the deficit to 5-2. North Broward Prep relief pitcher Yoel Tejeda Jr., a Florida commit, quieted the Falcons’ bats, and the Eagles’ offense threatened again and again, but the Falcons and starter Trey Beard refused to give up their advantage.

A controversial call in the bottom of the fourth seemed to reinforce the notion that good fortune was on the side of the Falcons. With a runner on first, Riley Luft sent a towering drive to left field that appeared to clear the fence, hit the angled grass seating area, and bounce back into play. The umpiring crew, however, ruled that the ball did not clear the fence and sent both baserunners back to second and third. A television crew broadcasting the game relayed to media members that the call was correct, but the North Broward Prep dugout and supporters were not too pleased. Adding to the frustration was Beard snagging Dylan Runsdorf’s comebacker and tossing to third for an inning-ending double play the very next at bat.

An inning later, with the bases loaded and only one down, Beard rolled a 4-3 double play to escape unscathed once again.

Dunedin’s 5-2 lead would hold until North Broward Prep managed to end Beard’s night in the sixth on Runsdorf’s RBI single that scored Tyler Richman. Reliever Jessiah Branch entered in relief and retired the first batter he faced to send the game to the seventh.

Leadoff hitter Clancy Marsh started the game-saving rally with a base hit to center, advanced to second on a wild pitch and touched home two batters later on Tejeda’s RBI double to right. Tejeda reached third on another wild pitch and Steidl walked, putting runners at the corners with one out.

The next at bat almost sent Dunedin to the championship, but Richman’s grounder to short didn’t have enough on it for the Falcons to turn the game-ending 6-4-3 double play. The Dunedin defense turned three double plays Monday night, with each ending an inning and a threat.

After being held scoreless by Tejada for five straight innings, Dunedin struck again in the top of the eighth. Bryan Loos drew a one-out walk and a fielding error on Beard’s ground ball gave the Falcons runners at first and second. Tejada fanned the next batter he faced, but USF commit Marcus Brodil sent an RBI single into center field to put Dunedin back on top, 6-5.

Prior to the ninth-inning walk-off, North Broward Prep needed to rally again in the eighth. They did so quickly, as Luft led off with a double to left and Kobe Benson drove him home two batters later.

Steidl’s game-winning double came three at bats into the ninth and drove home Jonah Diaz, who reached with a leadoff walk before stealing second.

All 13 of the Falcons’ hits were singles Monday night, with Brodil and Noah Bukolt posting three-hit performances. Beard, Branch and Greyson McNeill each had two hits.

Dunedin ends its season with an 18-12 overall record. Not counting the canceled 2020 campaign, the Falcons played in the region finals for the sixth straight year. The trip to the state semis was the program’s third in four full seasons. Dunedin fell in the semis in 2017 and advanced to the state championship in 2019, losing to Jesuit, 4-3.

BOX SCORE:

Dun – 320 000 010 --- 6-13-2

NBP – 020 001 211 --- 7-13-3

WP – Yoel Tejeda Jr.

LP – Jack Johnson

TOP PERFORMERS:

Dunedin (18-12)

Marcus Brodil – 3-for-5, RBI, R

Trey Beard – ND 5.2 IP, 3 R, 2 ER, 8 H, 5 K, 2 BB – 2-for-4

Noah Bukolt – 3-for-5

Dylan Oester – 1-for-3, RBI, R, BB, Sac Fly

North Broward Prep (20-10-1)

Josh Steidl – GW Hit, 1-for-3, RBI, R, 2B

Yoel Tejeda Jr. – Win, 7.0 IP, 1 R, 0 ER, 5 H, 4 K, 2 BB – 2-for-5, RBI, 2B

Tyler Richman – 2-for-4, 2 R, 2 2B

Riley Luft – 2-for-4, R, 2 2B