If tonight’s regional matchup is anything like the last time Naples and Gulf Coast met, fans can expect an entertaining affair.
The Golden Eagles baseball team beat Gulf Coast 12-8 in the district championship in a comeback victory that lasted more than three hours. Now the Sharks get a shot at revenge in the Class 6A regional semifinals at 7 p.m. at Naples.
The loss in the district final ended an 11-game winning streak for the Sharks (23-5). Gulf Coast responded by taking out its disappointment on Cape Coral-Island Coast in the quarterfinals in an 18-4 win.
“I told the kids when we lost to (Naples) that we’d probably play them again,” Sharks coach Pete Garcia said. “It was just a matter of time. Our wish came true. It should be a good game. Naples always plays us real tough.”
The Sharks have one of the most high-powered offenses in the area. They hit .357 as a team and average nine runs a game since starting the year 1-1. Gulf Coast’s loss to Naples was the only time the past five games the team has scored less than 13 runs.
Naples (21-6) is riding momentum under its new coach. Jeff Galati took over the team when Rick Turner resigned a week before the postseason. Since then, the Golden Eagles have won seven straight, which includes three playoff nail-biters.
The Eagles survived Barron Collier, 1-0 ,to get to the district finals. They then overcame a three-run deficit to beat Gulf Coast. In Friday’s regional quarterfinal, Naples scored in the seventh to force extra innings before winning 3-2 in nine.
“The guys know how to win,” Galati said. “I’ve just stepped in as the caretaker the remainder of the season. They’ve shown they can win many different type of games close ones, 1-0, comebacks, high-scoring games.”
The semifinal winner plays Friday in the regional championship against the winner of tonight’s Southwest Ranches-Archbishop McCarthy and Hialeah Gardens-Mater Academy semifinal.
Last season Naples lost in the regional finals to Archbishop McCarthy, which went on to win its third straight state championship. Gulf Coast played in the regional finals in 2009, the last time the Sharks qualified for the state tournament.