BRADENTON -- The track record was not good.
In the three years since Billy Dietrich took over Out-of-Door Academy's baseball team, the Thunder had played seven games against rival Cardinal Mooney.
ODA lost six of them.
So prior to Friday's Class 3A-District 10 final at McKechnie Field, Dietrich told his players there was nothing to lose, that they had already locked up a third straight regional berth (a program record, Dietrich said) and all they had to do was go out and have fun.
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They sure did.
Out-of-Door Academy rolled past the Cougars 11-3, winning the program's first district championship since 2009, after Cardinal Mooney won both regular-season meetings en route to earning the tournament's top seed.
"I just told them, 'Go out, play the game you've been playing since you were 5 or 6 and have fun. That's it. Whatever happens, happens,'" Dietrich said. "Good, bad or indifferent, it's a game. We kind of talked with the tragedies that happened last
week, to enjoy life, enjoy the game, because you just never know. They came out and they performed.
"I'm beyond proud of them."
The Thunder (18-7) were efficient, needing 10 hits, eight of which were singles, to plate 11 runs. The small-ball attack began immediately, when Tyler Dietrich opened the game with an infield hit and moved to second when Austin Hoppe's bunt went for a single.
Following a walk and a strikeout, Jake Romine hit a grounder to third baseman Robby Shea, who forced the runner at second.
But Desmond Lindsay slid hard into second, forcing Davis Rodenberry to lose the ball on the exchange and allowing Dietrich and Hoppe to score.
Two innings later, the Cougars took an 8-0 lead on RBI singles by Dietrich and Carson Jungers, a bases-loaded walk to Lindsay and a wild pitch.
"I think step one was our first championship a couple of years ago," said Dietrich, a sophomore catcher who had four hits, a walk, two runs scored and an RBI, "and I think we've just been building off that. And I think this is just our second phase of going higher to states."
Another sophomore, Jimmy Kuebler, allowed four hits and two runs to earn the win.
The Thunder host Clearwater Calvary Christian, the runner-up from District 9, in a Region 3 quarterfinal Thursday.
The Cougars (17-9) were doomed in part by four errors and didn't get their first hit until the fourth inning. They head to Clearwater Central Catholic on Thursday.
Austin Bingham had two hits for Cardinal Mooney.
"They executed and we didn't. They came out ready to play and we didn't. It's that simple," said Mooney coach John Bennett, whose team was 6-0 against district foes during the regular season. "I think we've been flat the last couple of days. I think it's just kind of gotten to where we've been complacent because we've done so well in the district all year long. I think we just came out flat thinking (the Thunder) was just going to roll over, and they didn't."