Buchholz falls in 6A state title game

(From left) Connor Brown, Cooper Collins, Ron Brooks and Anthony Wilkie in the 6A championship post-game interview.
(From left) Connor Brown, Cooper Collins, Ron Brooks and Anthony Wilkie in the 6A championship post-game interview.
Photo by Marty Pallman

The Buchholz Bobcats entered their first 6A state baseball championship game appearance on Saturday afternoon with plenty of confidence.

The Bobcats had allowed only two runs in four postseason games and were coming off a 12-0 blanking of Bloomingdale (Valrico) in Thursday’s state semifinal game.

But the Dwyer (Palm Beach Gardens) Panthers brought their bats and pounded out 14 hits in downing Buchholz, 10-3, in the 6A state title game at Hammond Stadium in Fort Myers.

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For Buchholz, who finished 24-9, a historic season came up just short of the ultimate goal.

“All credit goes to Dwyer, they really brought the bats and put the ball in play,” Buchholz coach Ron Brooks said. “A big problem was that we started this game much slower than we did in the semifinal and that was the difference.”

Dwyer (23-7-1) started quickly in the first inning against Buchholz senior starter Austin Cardozo.

With one out, Bryce Jackson doubled and scored on an RBI single by starting pitcher Dawson Thrush. With two outs, Sully Smith singled in courtesy runner Chris Jackson for a 2-0 Dwyer lead.

The Panthers blew the game open in the second against junior reliever J.J. Gardner. Gardner gave up four hits and four runs before being pulled for junior Wyatt Clarke.

With one out, Ole Miss commit Jackson Miller singled, stole second and came home on a single by Jackson for a 3-0 lead. Thrush then followed with another single bringing in two runs for a 5-0 advantage. Kody Morgan brought in another run with a single for a 6-0 advantage.

Buchholz (on left) and Dwyer line up at Hammond Field in Fort Myers before the Class 6A Championship game on Saturday.
Photo by Marty Pallman Buchholz (on left) and Dwyer line up at Hammond Field in Fort Myers before the Class 6A Championship game on Saturday.

Buchholz got on the board in the bottom of the second as senior and Clemson signee Anthony Wilkie crushed his eighth homer of the year over the berm in left field.

“I was just sitting slider and he (Thrush) threw one right down the middle,” Wilkie said. “It’s disappointing coming up short, I love these guys and we have been playing together forever.”

Unfortunately, Buchholz couldn’t get much else going against Thrush. The senior scattered five hits over 6 2/3 innings, walked two and struck out three. The Bobcats swung at a lot of first pitches and hit a lot of fly balls that were outs in cavernous Hammond Stadium.

“He wasn’t very overpowering, but he had good command,” Wilkie said. “We were squaring him up but were just hitting fly balls that might have been homers at another high school park.”

Dwyer extended the lead to 7-1 in the fourth and added two more runs in the fifth for a 9-1 edge.

Buchholz got a run in the fifth on a fielder’s choice by senior Cooper Collins and a bases-loaded walk by junior Kai So brought in Buchholz’s final run in the seventh.

“We battled out butts off down to the last pitch,” senior third baseman Conner Brown said. “I’ve been playing with these guys since I was six years old. To the future Buchholz ballclub, just cherish it.”

“Seeing them (Dwyer) pile on the field really gives us the hunger to come back and not have this feeling again,” Brooks said. “We think we have established our program as one of the best in the state and we want to continue to have that tradition about us.”

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