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Spruce Creek’s Brandon Neely too much for Lake Brantley in FHSAA baseball regional final

Orlando Sentinel logoOrlando Sentinel 5/16/2021 J.C. Carnahan, Orlando Sentinel
a group of baseball players standing on top of a field: Lake Brantley coach Eric Entrekin, pictured flanked by players earlier this season, said, “We accomplished every goal we wanted, except one,” on Saturday after losing to Spruce Creek in an FHSAA regional championship game. © Stephen M. Dowell/Orlando Sentinel Lake Brantley coach Eric Entrekin, pictured flanked by players earlier this season, said, “We accomplished every goal we wanted, except one,” on Saturday after losing to Spruce Creek in an FHSAA regional championship game.

Lake Brantley’s baseball team set out to accomplish three things when it started preseason preparation in January, one of which included playing for a state championship.

After winning 20 games and capturing a district title this spring, the Patriots (26-4) fell short of the trifecta Saturday with a 5-1 loss to visiting Port Orange Spruce Creek (22-8) in a Class 7A Region 1 final.

“We accomplished every goal we wanted, except one,” Lake Brantley coach Eric Entrekin said.

It was University of Florida signee Brandon Neely and four errors in the field that proved too much for the Patriots to overcome. Neely, a right-handed pitcher, held Lake Brantley’s potent lineup to three hits and struck out six batters during a complete-game performance.

His effort on the mound came after a key moment at the plate that put the Hawks in front 3-0 in the top of the first inning.

Neely crushed a 2-out pitch to right centerfield in his first at-bat to drive in two runs. He was promptly waved home after sliding headfirst into third base when a throw bounced into the home dugout.

“Neely is just a gamer,” first-year Spruce Creek coach Matt Cleveland said. “To come from where we were three weeks ago when we were not playing very good baseball, I don’t know if I’ve ever been more proud of a team that I’ve coached.”

Lake Brantley was unable to answer but stayed close as senior reliever Maverick Stallings entered the game in the second inning and held the Hawks to four hits and no earned runs the rest of the way. Stallings struck out five batters and did not issue a walk in his final high school outing.

Spruce Creek crossed home plate two more times in the fourth inning on errors.

Lake Brantley had the bases loaded in the bottom of the fourth but could not get on the scoreboard until the fifth after Connor Doyle was hit by a pitch, one of four tosses by Neely that plunked a player. Doyle scored on groundout to second base by Landon Moran.

“Offensively we’d been clicking really good the past six or seven weeks and putting together some unbelievable numbers,” Entrekin said. “But [Neely] made the pitches when he had to, and that’s what a good pitcher does.”

Luke Heyman, Connor Fosnow and Logan Chapman reached base safely on singles for the Patriots, who close out the season batting .349 as a team with 20 home runs, 8 triples and 72 doubles.

“I’ll never forget this group. We did a lot of amazing things,” Entrekin said. “To win 26 games in one year, not a lot of teams can say that. We just didn’t play our best tonight.”

Spruce Creek advances to face Region 2 winner Plant City Durant (22-5) in an FHSAA state semifinal on Friday at 10 a.m. at CenturyLink Sports Complex in Fort Myers. Durant won 2-1 at home against Kissimmee Osceola (20-8).

Cleveland, who spent the 2019-20 season as an assistant coach at the University of Miami, now has led three different programs to the state tournament. He coached Hagerty to a state runner-up finish in 2017 and went 70-21 in three years with the Huskies. He also coached Coral Springs Christian to a state semifinal in 2014.

In Class 2A, Mount Dora Christian Academy (22-6) defeated Seffner Christian (19-5-1) by a 5-4 score in eight innings to reach Wednesday’s state semifinal round. The Bulldogs face Orange Park St. Johns Country Day (23-6) at 10 a.m.

Bishop Moore and The First Academy play in regional championship games Wednesday in hopes of qualifying for state semifinals on May 24. The Hornets (15-12) play at Brooksville Nature Coast (23-4) in Class 4A while TFA (27-1) is at Tampa Berkeley Prep (24-4) in 3A.

Regional championship results

Class 7A Region 1

Port Orange Spruce Creek 5, Lake Brantley 1

Class 7A Region 2

Plant City Durant 2, Kissimmee Osceola 1

Class 4A Region 2

Bishop Moore at Brooksville Nature Coast, Wednesday, 7

Class 3A Region 2

The First Academy at Tampa Berkeley Prep, Wednesday, 7

Class 2A Region 2

Mount Dora Christian 5, Seffner Christian 4 (8 inn.)

This article originally appeared on Email J.C. Carnahan at

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