Seminole Warhawks fall short in regional baseball championship

The 2019 Seminole High School Warhawks varsity baseball team. Back row, from left: Coach Jeff Pincus, Coach Jacob Moroff, Coach Bill Rasmussen, Vince Capitani, Noah Palmese, Blake Bennett, Jean Ovalles, Jake Wegener, Tyler Strickland, Jett McHugh, Michael Ridge, Brian Hollingsworth, Cody McLean, Blake Swanson, Cade McHugh, Cade Lynch, Nick Novakowski, Peyton Fedorek, Seth Parker, Matt Carey, Head Coach Rob Ciaravino and Principal Jane Lucas. Front Row, from left: Colby Hoffman, Shaun Whitcomb, Victor Clanzy, Jonah Vizaro, Ty Welton, Dylan Silverstein, Eli Kelley, Ashton Fedorek and Jordy Owens.

SEMINOLE — After 92 days, and 29 regular and postseason games, the Seminole High School Warhawks baseball team finished their 2019 season with a 14-15 record.

With the team’s .248 batting average, 86 RBIs, 26 stolen bases and 169 strikeouts, the Warhawks defied the odds and won the Florida High School Athletic Association Class 8A District 7 championship and became the Class 8A Region 2 championship runner-up.

These are two milestones for the team, which last made it to a regional playoff in 2013, and has not won a district championship since 2012 or made it to a regional championship game since 2010.

For Seminole pitcher Seth Parker, who boasts a 1.54 ERA and 66 strikeouts, their regular season record doesn’t reflect the team they became with their postseason success.

“Our record wasn’t what we wanted it to be, but I also don’t think it was very reflective of how our season actually went,” he said. “Overall for the season, we accomplished our goal of getting to regionals and then some by making it to the regional championship.”

During the Class 8A Region 2 championship, the Warhawks battled to the very end when they faced the Plant City Raiders May 22 at Seminole’s Brinker Field. The game was a pitching duel between Parker and Raiders’ pitcher Parker Messick.

Plant City took an early lead after a solo home run by Tyler Dowdy in the second inning. The Raiders, who put two more runs on the scoreboard in the third and seventh inning, didn’t allow the Warhawks any runs making it a 3-0 win. Both Messick and Parker pitched a complete seven inning game.

The Raiders went on to win the Class 8A state championship May 30 at Hammond Stadium in Fort Myers, beating the Strawberry Crest Chargers 3-1.

Looking back at the 2019 season, second-year head coach Rob Ciaravino said the team’s postseason success is attributed to them applying everything they learned throughout the regular season and regarding each matchup as “just another game.”

“The guys took each game going forward as a challenge, but also went into each one with a lot of confidence,” he said. “These guys proved that they could play against any team, not just in Pinellas County and the Tampa Bay area, but also across the state of Florida.”

As they faced tougher teams in the post season, the coaching staff reminded the players to approach each game with the “H.A.W.K.S.” attitude of “H.A.W.K.S.”

Ciaravino said, “H.A.W.K.S is an acronym that stands for ‘Heart, Attitude, Warriors, Killer Instinct and Selfless.’ It’s the words we used every day in practice and in the games. They have done all of that and that is why they achieved everything they set out to do.”

For the Warhawks, it’s been a post season they’ll never forget. They started the Class 8A District 7 playoffs with a 10-14 record against the Countryside Cougars, defeating them in a 4-0 shutout and a guaranteed spot in the Class 8A regional playoffs.

But they came ready to play their district rival, the East Lake Eagles, for the district championship.

“It was probably one of our best games of the year,” said Parker. “We played with a chip on our shoulder, especially at the end. We had something to prove and, ultimately, I think we did.”

After winning the district championship 6-1, the Warhawks faced the Sarasota Sailors on May 15 for the Class 8A Region 2 quarterfinals. After 12 innings, Seminole won 2-1 after Jean Ovalle’s walk off brought in Ashton Fedorek to break the tie.

Then came time for the Warhawks to face a familiar foe once again.

The Class 8A Region 2 semifinal game on May 18 was referred to by Seminole and East Lake players as the “rematch game.” The game remained tied 1-1 until the bottom of the eighth inning when Shaun Whitcomb’s single to left field brought Fedorek home for the 2-1 win.

For Parker, although their season ended with a strikeout during the championship game, he’s glad to see the team remained united until the last out.

“We battled through tough times as a team and got better as a whole. We are a very close group and used each other as motivation every single day. We always pushed each other to be the best we can be.”

Now, with 11 seniors graduated and 15 returning next season, the Warhawks coaches, players and alumni look forward to seeing a competitive team for years to come.

“We have begun to bring Seminole baseball back to what it once was,” Parker said. “This was a great year for the program and I think a stepping stone for what’s to come.”