Paul Lanoce’s pitches were electric, as was the air around him.
The Benjamin pitcher allowed only three hits over five innings as his outing was cut short by a lightning delay. That didn’t stop the Buccaneers from shutting out American Heritage 3-0 on Tuesday and advancing to the state semifinals for the first time in program history.
“It’s funny; I kind of saw this day right in the beginning of the season,” first-year coach Jack Armstrong said. “Even though it started off a little bit tough, we had all the talent, we had the pitching depth. It was just a matter of bringing it all together, playing as a team and (getting) the right mojo going.”
Meanwhile, Palm Beach Central and Jupiter will have to wait at least one more day to see who wins Round 4. Their regional semifinal matchup was suspended Tuesday night due to lightning. The game will resume at 5 p.m. Wednesday.
Before storms forced the teams off the field, the Warriors led 4-0 behind strong pitching from junior Jake Garland and a two-run double by senior Dakota Gaillard.
Tuesday’s regional final between Benjamin and American Heritage also was the fourth matchup between the district foes — they split their two regular-season games, and the Buccaneers won their showdown with the Stallions in the district title game.
Armstrong chose to go with Lanoce instead of his ace, Kris Armstrong, who pitched a five-inning perfect game against Cape Coral-Oasis last week.
“The other team was surprised I was pitching him; a lot of people were,” Jack Armstrong said. “But he’s actually leading our team in ERA, and it wasn’t accidental. He doesn’t throw overly hard, but he’s very deceptive.
“And I said, you know, this is just the right guy here to eat up a few innings and get the game going in the right direction. Didn’t expect him to go five shutout, but that’s one of those things where you just kind of roll with it.”
Lanoce got three early runs behind him, with star center fielder Isaiah Thomas scoring on a sacrifice fly to shallow right field in the first inning, Matt Lopes scoring on a wild pitch in the second inning and Aaron Steinhart driving in Kris Armstrong in the third.
After the lightning delay forced Lanoce out of the game, junior Tyler Judge came in to relieve him. The 6-foot right-hander tossed two scoreless frames to get the save, and the Buccaneers dog-piled in the infield.
“We were ready to go,” Jack Armstrong said, “and we’re locked and loaded, fully loaded, for states.”