a man in a baseball uniform holding a bat
Hits by Nelson Ong in both the district semifinals and championship game helped propel Key West to another district title.

April showers played a part in the abrupt end to the seasons of two Keys baseball teams, while the third likely benefited from a May downpour. Key West was the latter. 

On May 1, the Conchs, whose strength of schedule and record afforded them a bye in the first round of the playoffs, faced the Sabres of St. Brendan School in the FHSAA 4A District 16 semifinals. Senior Anthony Lariz was trusted with the start for what could have spelled the final game of his season, but the steady righty lasted all 7 innings, striking out 8, walking 2 and giving up just 2 hits in another fantastic performance on the mound. 

Key West had another error-free game defensively, but struggled at the plate, registering just 3 hits. Freshman Roman Garcia ripped a double, while Nelson Ong and Sam Holland had a base hit each. That would be all the Conchs needed to win 3-1, sending them into the district championship game the following night. 

Though weather did not factor into Key West’s game, it rained out the other District 16 semifinal game, forcing those teams to play in the afternoon of May 2 while Key West waited to see who their rival would be in the championship game that night. 

The Killian Cougars defeated the Miami Sunset Knights to claim their spot in the championship game, but there was little rest for the Cougars, who then had to play the Conchs a few hours later. This time, senior Noah Burnham was handed the ball in what would become a pitchers’ duel, remaining scoreless until the fifth inning.

Key West broke it open, scoring 2 runs off 2 walks, 2 hits and a sacrifice bunt laid down perfectly by Auggy Davila. Inning five would be all the offense Key West needed to win the game. Lariz also doubled in the game while Garcia, Steel Mientkiewicz and Ong singled. 

Burnham struck out 5, walking just 2 and allowing 6 hits in 6-2/3 innings. After tossing 106 pitches, fellow senior Felix Ong finished off the final batter, striking him out on three pitches to seal the 33rd district championship for Key West in a 2-0 victory over the Cougars.

The Conchs faced the District 13 runner-up Falcons of Jensen Beach High School in the FHSAA 4A Region 4 quarterfinals. Though the Conchs were seeded one place below the Falcons, their district title afforded them the home field advantage. The game was scheduled for May 8 at Rex Weech Field (results not available at press time).

Photos by MARK HEDDEN/Keys Weekly

Tracy McDonald
Tracy McDonald fled to the Keys from the frozen mountains of Pennsylvania hours after graduating from college and never looked back. She is a second generation coach and educator, and has taught in the public school system for over 25 years. She and her husband met at a beginning teacher meeting in 1997 and have three children born and raised in Monroe County. In her free time, McDonald loves flea markets, historical fiction and long runs in the heat.