ESTERO — The goal of reaching JetBlue Park will be one step closer for the winner of tonight’s Class 5A regional semifinal between Cypress Lake and Estero. First pitch in the Lee County showdown is scheduled for 7 p.m. at Estero High School.
The winner will advance to a regional final against Jensen Beach or Plantation’s American Heritage on Friday night with a trip to the Final Four up for grabs. The Class 5A state semifinals and finals will be held May 22-23 at JetBlue Park, the spring training home of the Boston Red Sox in Fort Myers.
Cypress Lake (20-8) is the host school for all eight FHSAA state finals, but the Panthers are doing what they can to be a participant on the field, too. After capturing the 5A-District 13 title, Cypress Lake won its first regional tournament game since 2001 as the Panthers walloped Lely, 11-1, last week.
Only once in its history has Cypress Lake won more than one game in the regional tournament. That accomplishment came way back in 1967.
Success in regionals has been common place for Estero, which will be seeking its third straight trip to the regional finals. The 5A-14 champions edged Cape Coral in a regional quarterfinal, 2-1, as they pushed across the winning run in the bottom of the seventh inning.
Estero (18-9) expects another tough game tonight against Cypress Lake. Both teams’ resumes feature one-run victories against Cape Coral.
“They’re about the same caliber team (as Cape Coral). We’re just going to bring the same mentality in there,” said Estero pitcher Zeke Pietrzyk, who had two hits and one RBI against Cape Coral.
Estero and Cypress Lake met once in the regular season. The Panthers used an eight-run fifth inning to pull away for a 10-3 win. That setback for Estero came in its third game of the season while the Wildcats were dealing with key injuries that have since healed.
A pair of juniors lead their respective clubs at the plate. Cypress Lake’s Christian Hammond has a sizzling .457 batting average, which includes 13 multiple hit games for the infielder and pitcher. Estero shortstop Ryan Keegan is first on the team in batting average (. 387) and doubles (13).