Jupiter struggled to find a rhythm against Orlando Timber Creek junior ace Bret Neilan in a Class 9A baseball state semifinal game and fell 4-2 at Hammond Stadium on Friday night.
Neilan retired 18 of the final 21 batters he faced and Timber Creek scored four runs in the final four innings to top the Warriors at the spring training home of the Minnesota Twins.
Jupiter (22-7-2) managed just two hits after the first inning.
“You give a guy a little bit of time, he gets some momentum and he starts rolling,” Jupiter coach Andy Mook said of Neilan. “He was really believing in his pitches and spotting them well. We just couldn’t get it going.”
Timber Creek will take on Orange City University today in the championship game.
Neilan (15-0) surrendered a two-out RBI single to Jupiter senior Andrew Martinez in the first inning to open the game’s scoring. Martinez’s single scored senior Mason Doolittle from second after Doolittle smashed a double to right field.
Neilan settled in after that and retired the next 13 Warriors.
Jupiter senior Zach Chivers, who has committed to Canisius College, took the loss despite a solid performance.
Chivers retired the first nine batters he faced, but allowed Timber Creek seniors Arnie Ruiz and Cameron Meehan to reach base on back-to-back infield singles to open the fourth inning. Ruiz and Meehan then each scored on a throwing error and Timber Creek took a 2-1 lead.
Timber Creek (24-6) added another run in the fifth when junior Didier Cancel scored on an RBI groundout after reaching on an error.
Jupiter senior Anthony Servideo led off the sixth inning with a triple to right field and scored on a Timber Creek fielding error to trim the deficit to 3-2. The Warriors had the tying run in scoring position with Doolittle standing on second base after a steal, but Neilan induced back-to-back fly outs to get out of the jam.
Neilan then helped his own cause in the top of the seventh with an RBI single to left field for the final run.
Jupiter’s Tyler Ward drilled a leadoff double in the bottom of the seventh inning but the Warriors could not manage another hit.
Chivers, who exited with two outs in the top of the seventh to an ovation from the crowd and hugs from teammates, struck out seven and walked just one but was hurt by three Warrior errors.
“He’s a bulldog out there and he has been all year,” Mook said of his ace. “Two complete games during our playoff run. He is a competitor and he will do great in college.”