Navarre High School's baseball Raiders turned a game-ending double-play Friday to squash a last-gasp rally by visiting Pine Forest.
The Raiders (7-8 overall, 3-5 District 1-5A) scored twice in the bottom of the sixth inning to stretch their lead to three runs and held on for a 5-4 district win against the hapless Eagles (1-10, 0-8). It was the Raiders' second one-run win against the Eagles this season; Navarre notched a 2-1 win at Pine Forest on Feb. 25.
Relief pitcher Derek LaMar retired Pine Forest's side in order in the sixth, but Coach Mickey O'Quinn sent sophomore Devin Colonel to the mound to pitch the seventh. Colonel is recovering from "Tommy John" elbow surgery and was cleared to pitch earlier this week. He threw nine pitches, just one strike, and walked the only two batters he faced.
"You know, you don't have it every night," O'Quinn said of Colonel's performance. "It was just his second time out. I wanted him to throw, but we want to be very, very careful with his arm. He's going to make some big pitches for us this year."
Freshman Jared Gonzalez relieved Colonel and walked Brent McNair, the first batter he's faced in varsity action. Gabe Veith followed with a run-scoring single and Josh Middleton reached safely on a run-scoring grounder to second baseman Jason Frederick, who stepped on the bag to force out Veith at second. With the tying run at third and go-ahead run at first, Gonzalez got Blake Crain to hit a grounder to Kyle Camilli, who had moved from first to short when Gonzalez took the mound. Camilli scooped up the ball and tossed it to Frederick, who wheeled and fired to Chris Wheeler at first for the game's final out.
Camilli, who started the season at shortstop, lost his job to Gonzalez after struggling defensively earlier in the season. He started at first base against Pine Forest and doubled twice in three at-bats, knocking in a run and scoring one for the Raiders.
"I'm a lot more relaxed," the senior said after making the game-saving play. "Before, I was too tense, I was pushing too hard. Now, it's fun again."
O'Quinn said he hadn't lost confidence in Camilli.
"Sometimes you just have to give a kid a break, get them to stop trying so hard," he said. "He's been swinging the bat well for us, he just hasn't been getting as many at bats, but you can expect to see him playing more down the stretch."
Justin Jordan started and pitched five innings for Navarre, allowing two Eagles runs on four hits, five walks and a hit batter. The junior struck out five Pine Forest batters and improved his record to 4-0 with a 2.09 earned-run average. Jordan helped himself with a pair of singles and an RBI.
"He always gives us a chance to win," O'Quinn said of Jordan, who has pitched a team-high 26-and-a-third innings in 2011.
The Raiders' defense played errorless ball against Pine Forest. Frederick sparkled behind Jordan, turning a double play to diffuse a potential big fourth inning for the Eagles. With the bases loaded and no outs, the freshman hustled to his left to catch Zack Hathaway's line drive just before it hit the ground and threw to Wheeler at third to catch pinch-runner Albert Samuel before he could get back to the bag. The next batter, Gerald Reinhardt, tapped back to Jordan, who easily threw him out at first to end the threat.
"I like the close games," Jordan said after the game. "It makes us try a little bit harder."
Wheeler led the Raiders' attack, going 3-for-3 with a pair of doubles, an RBI and a run. A senior, Wheeler is hitting .500 (6-for-12) in the Raiders' last four games with three doubles, three runs scored and two RBIs.
"Chris Wheeler had a really nice week, he's probably our player of the week," O'Quinn said.
John Lester went the distance for Pine Forest, allowing five runs in six innings pitched on eight hits, four walks and a hit batter. He struck out five Raiders.
The Raiders will play at Fort Walton Beach and at Niceville at 6 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday, respectively, in the first games of the annual Bulldog Classic. Navarre will play at 3:30 p.m. Thursday at Crestview against an opponent to be determined and will play Friday at Crestview with the time and opponent to be determined by Thursday's results.