After waiting 15 years for this moment, a 12-day layoff isn’t going to deter Frank Turco.
The longtime Estero baseball coach is still relishing his team’s 3-2 upset win over Plantation-American Heritage in the regional finals Friday, earning the school its first trip to the state semifinals.
The Wildcats (21-9) take on St. Johns-Creekside (22-10) on Wednesday, May 22 at JetBlue Park.
“If somebody would have asked me before Friday ‘do you know how long the layoff is,’ I would have emphatically said ‘I don’t have a clue,’” Turco said. “I didn’t want to think about anything except let’s go out, have some fun and play this game.”
Estero is still in information-gathering mode about Creekside, which is also making its first trip to the state semifinals but doesn’t have quite the history of the Wildcats. Estero fell in four previous regional finals before finally getting over the hump this year.
“As coaches, we want to play right away,” Wildcats pitching coach and former FGCU hurler Troy Beall said. “We had so much momentum after (beating American Heritage), you just want to keep it going. You just hope the same team shows up to play.”
The Wildcats are doing everything in their power to make sure rust won’t be a factor. In the next week, they’ll be playing intrasquad matchups to stay sharp. They’ll also be facing live pitching from former Estero standouts like Ray DeJesus and Zach See, who pitched in the Twins’ organization a few years ago. Beall also said the Wildcats will scrimmage against a travel team, although top pitchers Zeke Pietrzyk and Brian Boocock won’t take the mound since the team can’t risk an injury before the state tournament.
“We need to keep our hitters sharp,” Turco said. “Hitting hasn’t been a strong suit of our team, although we’ve come up with a lot of timely hits. We’re just trying to keep the guys as sharp as we can. One nice thing is the other team has the same layoff. It is what is, but we don’t mind it.”
Pietrzyk said knowing what lies ahead gives the Wildcats an edge during their spirited practices.
“We’re pretty hyped up at our practices anyway, but knowing we have a shot at a state championship makes them a lot more fun and exciting,” he said. “The layoff isn’t a big deal for us. We did it at the beginning of the season, we can do it now.”