Maybe Jupiter’s surprising baseball season was obvious from the start.
The Warriors escaped a bases-loaded, no-out jam and won on a walk-off home run by Ricky Clark in an early-season game against rival Dwyer. A win like that could inspire a long winning streak, motivating a team to a great season.
Instead, the Warriors struggled to stay above .500 in a tough district and were not The Post’s pick to win the district title. The struggles during the regular season made what has followed all the more surprising: Jupiter is two wins away from its first state championship.
“I feel like we’re just really clicking right now,” senior Mitchell Hartigan said. “We struggled a little at the beginning, kind of had to figure a few things out.”
Jupiter made it to Fort Myers for the state semifinals last year thanks in large part to a talented senior class that featured outfielder Reese Albert (Florida State), pitcher Zach Chivers (Canisius College), catcher Mason Doolittle (signed with LSU, transferred to Palm Beach State), middle infielder Anthony Servideo (Ole Miss), first baseman Tyler Ward (Air Force) and more.
The Warriors could’ve accepted a step backward. But that was not in the cards.
“We were written off because we lost all those guys,” coach Andy Mook said.
The early season victory over Dwyer put Jupiter two games above .500. They managed to get three games above even later in March but never did better than that, often following short winning streaks with equal losing streaks against a tough schedule.
“We just couldn’t click,” Mook said. “We had great practices, and then when we’d play a game, it was like, ‘What’s going on?’ … We made costly mistakes, some mental mistakes.”
But in the past month, the Warriors have come alive.
First, they scored four runs with two outs in the seventh to tie Palm Beach Central in the district championship, winning with two runs in the ninth. Then they beat Park Vista by one run and defeated the Broncos in a regional semifinal rematch. Last week, they took down Parkland-Stoneman Douglas 2-1 to clinch a spot in the state semifinals for the second consecutive year.
“Once Senior Night hit, I think everyone realized how much it meant, that it could be their last game,” senior infielder Dakota Gaillard said. “So everyone just started locking in. Since playoffs happened, we’ve been on a good run ever since.”
None of what the Warriors have done in the past few months will matter come Friday when Jupiter faces Miami Columbus with ace Jake Garland on the mound.
“It’s not how you start,” Mook said, “but how you finish.”