Baseball: Sickles wins Class 6A state title — May 24

Caden McDonald did not exactly run from the field after the throw settled in his glove for the final out. The senior skipped, leaped, then came back to earth again, rushing toward a place he and his teammates imagined they would be all season.

Finally he heaved himself into a pile of Sickles players celebrating on the mound after a 4-2 victory over Viera in the Class 6A state championship game.

It is the first baseball title in school history for the Gryphons.

They accomplished this feat with a veteran lineup that included eight returning starters, many of whom are seniors who started their high school careers during a pandemic that cut short their freshman season. 

Those players developed a bond as they made steady progress, going from 15 wins in 2021 to 24 and a trip to the state semifinals last year. 

This year, the focus was finishing the season as champions. 

Sickles did that by winning. 

And winning. 

Heading into Wednesday’s final, the Gryphons had put together 21 straight victories, by far the longest streak in the area this season. 

They did it by prevailing in blowouts that ended early and in tight games that went extra innings. Better still, the bulk of those victories came against quality opponents. 

That ability to overcome any situation, whether it be a formidable opponent or inclement weather, paid off in the title game. 

Through nearly five complete innings, Sickles had built a 4-2 lead against Viera, which reached the final by knocking off defending champion Miami Doral in the semifinals. 

Then lightning was detected, which forced a two-hour delay. 

Sickles was not deterred. 

Luke Fikar, one of the seniors, threw two scoreless innings in relief. He fielded a grounder, then threw to McDonald for the final out to set off a raucous celebration. 

The Gryphons got to this joyous occasion via McDonald’s arm – and bat. 

In Tuesday’s semifinal win over Winter Springs, McDonald was one hit away from a perfect game and finished with six strikeouts. He did his part at the plate, too, with a solo homer in a 2-0 victory. 

McDonald continued his offensive production Wednesday with a double and a run scored. 

Others made major contributions, such as Bryce Vance, who went 2-for-2 and Justin Allen, who drove in two runs. 

It all culminated with a win – and a title – they could finally call their own.