Posted: 12:26 am Sunday, June 2nd, 2013

Palm Beach State falls in Junior College World Series title game 

By Matt Porter

Palm Beach State’s national championship dream ended on Saturday, but the future is bright.

The Panthers, in their first appearance in the National Junior College Athletics Association Division I World Series, fell in the title game 7-3 to Central Alabama.

After winning its first state title since 1984, PBSC hoped to become only the fifth junior college national champion from Florida in the tournament’s 55-year history.

The Panthers (42-20) lost to the same team that dealt them a tournament-opening loss, which forced them to battle through the loser’s bracket and play four games in four days. They won four games after that 6-4 loss last Saturday — including a 13-4 pounding of Central Alabama — and entered Saturday’s championship game riding high.

But PBSC’s offense sputtered, managing zero runs over the final six innings and seven hits in total. Central Alabama knocked right-hander Ryan Pistey out in the sixth inning, collecting nine hits and four runs off the Park Vista grad.

Reliever Jose Lazaro allowed three runs in 1.1 innings, including a wild pitch and a balk that scored a pair of runs in the sixth. The wild pitch was set up by a Palm Beach State error and a sac bunt. The balk was preceded by two singles and a steal. The inning turned a tie game into a 5-3 Central Alabama lead.

Central Alabama’s Paul Young went the distance, allowing seven hits with five strikeouts.

“He was low to mid 90s, outstanding breaking ball, threw strikes all night long. He threw a heck of a game,” Forbes said. “We made some mistakes that were uncharacteristic of our ballclub and they took advantage of every one.”

PBSC center fielder Mike Stemle (Park Vista) was 2-for-4 with two doubles and two runs scored. First baseman Ryan Church (Santaluces) knocked in a pair of runs.

Stemle, Lazaro, Church, shortstop Marcus Mooney (Seminole Ridge) and ace right-hander J.D. Underwood were named to the All-Tournament team.

Underwood, a Miami signee, could be selected early in the major league draft, which begins Thursday. The Panthers return starters Mooney, second baseman Brett Lashley (Park Vista) and third baseman Dan Hudzina (Martin County) and right fielder Gabe Martinez (Palm Beach Central). They also boast a strong incoming class of talent from area high schools.

He’s already preparing for next year, but Forbes will never forget this current squad.

“I’ve never been prouder of a team,” he said. “This was a magical run. These kids made history. The whole area should be proud of them.”