Palm Beach Central’s C.J. Kayfus went up against Santaluces’ A.J. Orrico with two outs in the seventh inning Tuesday night and the tying runs on base.
Orrico, who entered the Class 9A regional quarterfinal hitting .485 on the season, worked a full count.
“Just throw a strike,” Kayfus thought.
The sophomore dialed up a fastball and blew it past Orrico, ending the game and securing the Broncos’ 2-0 win over the Chiefs. Kayfus threw his glove toward the dugout in celebration and walked off the mound.
“It was just unbelievable,” Kayfus said. “Just the best feeling.”
If Santaluces’ attempted comeback looked familiar to Palm Beach Central’s players and fans, it wouldn’t be surprising. The Broncos blew a lead against Jupiter and lost the district championship Thursday. It wouldn’t happen again.
“We just put it behind us because it’s baseball,” Central coach Tony Gullo said. “That’s the great thing about baseball. In football, you have to wait a week to redeem yourself. In baseball, we only had four days or so to redeem ourselves.”
Both of Palm Beach Central’s runs came off the bat of shortstop Michael Brooks. The sophomore, a Mississippi State commit who transferred from Park Vista before the season, broke a scoreless tie in the third inning with a triple. He drove in Kayfus, who led off the inning with a single, with his deep drive to left.
Brooks came up big again in his next at-bat, driving in another run with a single.
“He’s a phenomenal player,” Gullo said. “We were very lucky that he moved into our district.”
Brooks’ two runs were enough for the Broncos pitching staff. Before Kayfus, Zac Lampton got two outs in the seventh, Krishna Raj pitched a scoreless frame and starter Jeremy Neff shut down the Chiefs for five innings.
“When (Neff is) on and he’s got his command, he’s really tough,” Gullo said.
The Broncos move on to the regional semifinals, where they will get a rematch with Jupiter, which beat Park Vista 4-3
“That would be the best,” Kayfus said.