Maybe the fifth time is the charm.
For the second consecutive year, visiting baseball team made the most important of five games against nemesis Clearwater Central Catholic the last one, thumping CCC 8-2 in their Class 3A regional semifinal Friday.
The Crusaders (14-13) prevailed behind strong pitching from Derek Martin and Nick Sucarichi, and the scorching bat of Cam Alford, whose three-run first-inning homer provided all the runs needed to send CCC (19-10) packing.
TC hosts Bishop Verot of Fort Myers in the regional final Friday at 4 p.m. The victor advances to the 3A state semifinals at Port St. Lucie.
TC lost three times in four games against CCC this season, but two were by one run and the third by two runs. So while the losses were tough to take, Coach Pat Russo and his charges knew they could play with CCC and it showed from the opening inning on.
Martin was superb after surrendering a two-run homer in the bottom of the first, giving up only four hits in six innings. He struck out six and walked four. Sucarichi worked a perfect seventh, fanning two.
Alford, who homered and knocked in seven runs in the quarterfinal victory against Lakeland McKeel, ended with a perfect 3-for-3 night against CCC, also scoring two runs. Matt Darrigo hit a solo homer in the second inning and Billy Endris added two doubles. TC continued to pull away in the middle innings, adding two runs in the third and two in the fifth.