Gil Morales was surprised at just how quick things went.
At first, the Jacksonville Trinity Christian Academy head baseball coach said he thought they started about a half hour earlier.
But looking at his watch, it was clear.
Monday’s Sarasota Baseball Classic opener against Palmetto High at Riverview’s field at Suncoast Polytechnical High took just an hour and 15 minutes.
“It’s really ridiculous right now,” Morales said. “Our kids don’t even know what’s going on.”
Trinity Christian’s A.J. Labas and Palmetto’s Jacob Josey pitched efficient, quick innings.
In the end, Trinity Christian tallied enough offense, while taking advantage of a few Palmetto errors, to peel off a 5-0 victory.
The Conquerors, who are ranked fifth among all Florida programs by MaxPreps, advanced to Tuesday’s quarterfinals against Cardinal Mooney, while Palmetto (4-6) slipped into the loser’s bracket.
The Tigers play Braden River, which lost to Mooney on Monday at Venice High.
In the early going on Monday, it was apparent both Labas and Josey had their stuff working.
Labas, who is committed to play at the University of North Florida, was one of two TCA players that were performing in front of a Major League Baseball scout.
Labas hit 88-91 miles per hour with his fastball, while mixing in off-speed pitches to mow through Palmetto’s lineup for the first five innings.
The Tigers stranded four runners and produced just two hits during that span.
“It’s been that way all year,” said Glass about Palmetto’s hitting. “At some point, hopefully, the baseball gods will smile upon us and some balls will find a gap or some lines or some green.”
Meanwhile, Josey matched Labas in the first three frames as Trinity hitters managed just one hit.
Then in the bottom of the fourth inning, Josey gave up a two-out single to Tyler Isenberg. He scored when Logan Nugent doubled off the left-center field fence.
“The biggest thing was putting the ball in play,” Morales said. “We figured if we can put the ball in play, we were hoping that we could take (Josey’s) breaking ball away.”
Palmetto’s Harrison Thiel led the Tigers with a 2-for-4 day at the plate.
Isenberg and Nugent were two of three Conquerors to tally multi-hit games. Austin Martin, who was also getting scouted, was the other.
“It’s exciting,” said Josey about being locked in a pitcher’s duel. “Because it’s whoever can score first and score more, and who’s defense will hold up and who will swing the bats better. And it comes to down to the wire.”
Though he quieted Palmetto’s bats for most of Monday’s first-round matchup, Labas found himself in a jam with the score in a manageable 3-0 deficit for the Tigers in the top of the sixth.
Palmetto loaded the bases with Logan Frazier (single) and Ty Hooks (walk) reaching with two outs.
Morales then instructed Labas to deliver pinpoint location to Palmetto third baseman Gunner Womer in the game’s biggest spot: inside.
Womer was jammed, and dribbled a grounder to Trinity shortstop Conner Aldrich for a rally-crushing, inning-ending groundout.
“It was huge,” Glass said. “There was a point where it was 1-0 and we had a runner in scoring position, and we couldn’t do anything.”
Added Morales of his senior right-handed pitcher: “He’s in the zone. He’s doesn’t waste pitches. ... He’ll pitch to contact and get you flyballs, get you groundballs. He doesn’t try to overthrow.”
The Conquerors scored four runs off four Palmetto errors in the last two innings to add some insurance for Labas and Dylan Simmons, who closed the game with a spotless seventh inning.
For the Tigers, the game against a top-ranked program wasn’t anything new as Glass specifically targeted a difficult non-district schedule to prepare for the postseason.
“ Every team we’re playing was either a district champ or district runner-up,” Glass said. “So every team we’re playing is a playoff-caliber team. ... I did that this year, because if you want to be the best, you’ve got to play the best and you’ve got to beat the best.”
Braden River vs. Palmetto, TBD