CONCH BASEBALL ENDS SEASON AS DISTRICT CHAMPS

By Caroline Smith 

The Key West Conchs’ baseball season ended at home on May 14, with a tough loss in the regional semifinals to the Miami Springs Golden Hawks.

Nearly 2,000 red-bedecked fans packed Rex Weech Field in Key West, hoping the season would end with the island city’s 12th state championship. Alas, it was not to be.

In the first inning, the Conchs gave up two runs on a two-run home run for the Hawks. It was the Hawks’ only hit until a double in the fourth inning. Key West was hitless until the fourth inning, when Jack Haggard singled. Kai Smith followed with another single, moving Haggard to third.  He scored the Conchs’ first run on a passed ball, making the score 2-1 going into the fifth. In the top of the seventh, Jacob Burnham recorded two outs before Felix Ong came in to pitch in relief with two runners on. He allowed two runs to score and gave up one hit before striking out the last batter of the inning.

The Conchs started the bottom of the seventh inning with a walk to Anden Rady. Wyatt Kuhn doubled to left field, scoring Rady to narrow the score to 4-2. But the Conchs managed no more hits that inning, as the Hawks’ pitching scratched the final three outs for Miami Springs’  4-2 win. Burnham got the start for Key West, throwing 6.2 innings. He gave up five hits and four runs and struck out four. 

The Key West Conchs defeat Mariner High School on May 11. It was the Conchs’ last win of the 2022 season, as they fell on May 14 to Miami Springs. HEATHER DOW/HDDPhotography.net

Key West had a tremendous season, going 22-7 and winning the District Championship. Preston Herce had the highest batting average on the team at .494, and an on-base percentage of .630. He had 5 home runs and 6 triples, with 39 hits, 42 runs scored and 32 runs batted in. He was fast on the base paths as well, with 18 stolen bases. 

Behind the plate, Noah Burnham caught eight runners stealing and Gabe Williams caught three. 

Noah Burnham had the highest total chances of 140 in the field and did not commit a single error. Senior Trevor Zuelch was right behind him with 129 chances and only 2 errors for a .984 fielding percentage. 

The Conchs had solid pitching over the entire season, giving up a total of 145 hits with 199 strikeouts. The team earned run average was an impressive 2.44 over a total of 192 innings of work from seven different pitchers. Jacob Burnham led the team with nine wins against three losses with a 2.74 era. He recorded the most strikeouts for the Conchs at 66. Ong was a perfect 7-0 in 14 appearances, while Andris Barroso had a tiny 0.76 ERA across a team -eading 64 innings. Key West was a well-rounded ball club that competed hard in every game this season. Although the season did not end the way the Conchs wanted, they return a solid young team ready to compete for next year.

“Key West, thank you for an amazing season,” said the team’s Facebook page. “Without your support all season long, this would not have been so special.  Finishing 22-7 is an amazing accomplishment. Last night was an experience our players will never forget. Almost 2,000 Key West Conch baseball fans filled Rex Weech supporting a young team whose only desire was to play for their community and bring home  (state championship) #12. For us, playing for Key West represents the past, the present and the future.

“To our seniors Trevor Zuelch, Preston Herce, Billy Kight, Jason Yarbrough and Kai Smith, we thank you for your efforts in continuing the rich tradition and expectations of Conch Baseball. 

Good luck and best wishes to all of you in your future endeavors. Go Conchs.”

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