It was Senior Night at Rex Weech Field on Tuesday evening as the Key West High School baseball team finished off their 2016 regular season. For the first time since the 2009 season, the Conchs hosted baseball powerhouse Monsignor Pace. The Spartans jumped out to a 4-0 lead early and never looked back winning 7-3 over Key West.
In what might have been his last start at Rex Weech, depending on District playoffs, Hunter Mattheessen took the mound for the Conchs. The first pitch hit the back of the Monsignor Pace batter, the next batter singled and Mattheessen quickly found himself with runners on the corners with no outs. A blooper to right field fell and the Spartans were up 1-0 over the Conchs. Monsignor Pace was unable to score more runs in the top of the first, but after a hit-less bottom of the inning for Key West, the Spartans exploded for three runs in the second.
A walk then a second hit by pitch gave Pace, runners on first and second with no outs. The third walk of the game by Mattheessen loaded the bases. The Spartans scored their second run while Key West caught the base runner out at second. With runners once again on the corners with only one out, Pace led to 2-0. The player on third appeared to be headed home but found himself caught between third and home plate. What appeared to be an easy out for the Conchs turned bad quickly as Mattheessen’s toss to third base flew into left field. Amid the errors and confusion by Key West, the Spartans took advantage clearing the bases and jumping out to an early 4-0 lead. Head coach Ralph Henriquez had enough pulling the senior and replacing him with Ty Hughes. A fly out to right field and a strike out by Hughes ended the sluggish second inning for the Conchs.
In the third, Hughes struck out back-to-back batters keeping Pace from getting on base in the top of third. In the bottom of the third, Christian Luna singled to left, the first hit of the game for Key West. Pace was unable to turn the double double as Jason Garcia beat the throw to first while Luna was caught sliding into second. Hunter Sellers sent one right into the glove of the shortstop ending the inning for the Conchs.
Hughes continued to strike out batters in the top of 4th, fanning two more Spartans. Hughes only faced three batters in both the 3rd and 4th keeping his pitch count low while earning Ks. The Conchs looked to chip away at the four run deficit in the bottom of the 4th but left two on after a Matthew Herrrington single and a walk to Will Anderson.
The Spartans didn’t let up in the 5th inning as Hughes struck out his 6th batter of the game. With two outs and two on, an RBI double to left field brought home the 5th run of the game for Pace. Hughes got himself out of the jam after the next batter flew out to second, leaving runners on in scoring position. Ty Hughes’ night would end in the 6th inning after striking out six batters and only allowing one run. Kyle Snow came in to close for Key West as the Conchs looked to rally in the final two innings down five runs.
The closer singled to right field to start things off, Herrington was walked and Monsignor Pace had to call time with no outs. After a quick break in the action, Anderson was walked for the second time in the game, this time loading the bases. Andrew Karch stepped to the plate and a second straight walk brought in a free run for the Conchs giving life to the Southernmost baseball team. After an Alvin Howard strikeout, Patrick Spencer singled bringing in a second run.
Poor base running and a strikeout by Jason Garca left the bags loaded ending the late rally by the young Conchs. The Spartans showed why they are one of the best in South Florida scoring two more runs in the top of 7th and ending a late rally by Key West. Pace headed back up north to Miami Dade winning 7-3, its 14th straight victory. The Spartans handed the Conchs their 5th straight loss.
Since defeating Southridge 8-7 on April 1st, Key West has struggled in the month of April going (1-5) losing against both of the other teams in 5A District 16, Keys Gate and Gulliver Prep. The Conchs have been outscored by their opponents 28-12. Despite the late skid, Key West feels confident heading into the District playoffs. The Conchs have a week of rest before heading to Miami for a District 16 semifinal against Keys Gate. On March 8th, Key West came out on top 12-4 on the road against the very same Keys Gate team before losing at home 5-3 to the Knights this past week.
If Key West wants to play another game at Rex Weech Field this season, the team must come home with a District 16 Title over the Gulliver Prep Raiders. Before they think about facing the Raiders, the young Key West squad must first take care of business next Tuesday against Keys Gate Charter in the 5A-16 Semifinals.