FORT MYERS, Fla. — It was a battle fitting two marquee programs battling for a State Championships, with an unexpected and controversial twist that made it all the more dramatic. In a game delayed by weather that ended just before 1:00 a.m. Eastern time, Venice beat Pace 3-1 in 9 innings for the 7A Title.
Pace relied on Ty Kirchharr to start on the mound despite not having seen game action in more than a month. The junior delivered an amazing performance, pitching into the 8th inning, allowing just one run. After Kirchharr left the game, still tied 1-1 in the 8th, things got crazy.
First Camaron Rohling came on in relief but after two batters the clock struck midnight, literally. Christian McCullough had been ineligible to pitch Thursday after going over the pitch limit in Wednesday’s semifinal. But once Friday officially started, based on the wording of the rule, Pace felt they could call on McCullough. Head Coach Jason McBride said he was given pregame assurance from an FHSAA official that he could do it, and it’s a scenario Pensacola Catholic used successfully a few years ago. But after a protest from the Venice coach and a lengthy deliberation of about 20 minutes, it was ruled that McCullough could not pitch. Instead A.J. Martin came on and got a ground out with the bases loaded to keep the game tied. But in the 9th inning Venice scratched out two runs off Martin with the help of a couple of tough chance errors. Pace couldn’t respond in the bottom of the 9th and fell just short of the programs 5th state title.