FORT MYERS – The Venice Indians had many weather delays and postponements throughout the state baseball playoffs, and the championship game was no different. The prior game was delayed for lightning by 2 hours, and then went 9 innings, so the Indians began their State Championship game against Pensacola Pace at 9:45 pm, 2 hours and 15 minutes after the original start time.

As the visiting team, the Indians got right down to business. Kevin Dubrule singled to open the game, was sacrificed to second by Michael Robertson. A wild pitch would get Dubrule to third, and Mac Guscette, with the suicide squeeze bunt, drove in the games first run.

Pitching and defense kept the Indians in the lead. Danny Rodriguez took a no-hitter into the 5th inning before giving up a leadoff single. That runner would come around to tie the game at 1 after 5 innings.

It was a tightrope walk for both teams from there as they went into the 8th inning as the clock struck midnight. Because it was midnight, and now technically Friday, Pensacola’s head coach, Jason McBride, tried to bring in his closer Christian McCollugh, who’s pitch count in the Wednesday semifinal win had not allowed him to pitch Thursday. He intentionally walked a batter, then threw one pitch to Guscette. That is when Venice head coach Craig Faulkner went to the umps, and then to FHSAA officials, to argue that the game technically was a Thursday game, so the reliever was ineligible to pitch. Eventually, the FHSAA ruling was that he was, in fact, ineligible to pitch, and another reliever was brought in to start Guscette’s at-bat over. It could have been ruled a forfeit right there bu officials felt the game should be won on the field.

That is exactly what Venice did. In the 9th, they used a fielder’s choice grounder by relief pitcher Reese Jackowiak to plate the 2nd run of the game, and then Dubrule dropped down a bunt that could not be handled by the first baseman for a 3-1 Indians lead. Jackowiak then closed it out on the mound in the bottom of the 9th, and the Venice Indians had themselves a State Championship!

“It’s great. These kids have worked so hard all year”, said Craig Faulkner, the Indians head coach. “We pitched well, had some timely hits, and made the plays in the field. We are so blessed to be able to experience this(State Championship).

The game ended at 12:52 am, Friday June 1st. It is the 5th State Championship in school history for the baseball team, and its the third State Title for the school this year. The volleyball and football teams both won championship in the 2017-18 school year.