Nobody would have been surprised if the Okeechobee High School baseball season had ended April 30.
Indications pointed to a fast exit from the postseason for the Brahmans, a team with a sub .500 record in the regular season and the fourth seed in a four-team district playoff.
But huge upsets paved the way for a memorable postseason run that lasted three weeks for the Brighton Reservation’s Sean Osceola, Ozzy Osceola, Lucas Osceola and Layne Thomas and the rest of the Brahmans.
The pitching of senior right-hander Sean Osceola led the squad throughout the playoffs as the Brahmans beat quality opponents along the way, including one pitcher who has a verbal commitment to the University of Florida and is expected to be a first or second round MLB Draft pick and another pitcher who has signed with the University of Miami.
The Brahmans reached the regional final for the first time in 13 years. The magical journey ended with a loss to Doral Academy, but the memories will last forever.
“Hard-fought games and all the chemistry we have and all the good times; I’m soaking it all in because it’s one last time,” Sean Osceola said after the victory against Martin County. “It’s been very special,” added right fielder Ozzy Osceola. “For these seniors and for us as a team, it’s one of the most special things that I’ll cherish forever as a I move on as a baseball player.”
Here’s a recap of Okeechobee’s postseason run:
Class 7A-Disrict 13 semifinal: Okeechobee 2, Jensen Beach 0
STUART – Sean Osceola and Lucas Osceola helped Okeechobee High School shock top-seeded Jensen Beach, 2-0, in a Class 7A-District 13 baseball semifinal April 30.
Sean Osceola, the Brahmans starting pitcher, delivered six scoreless innings. Lucas Osceola scored the go-ahead run as a pinch runner in an eight-inning thriller at Tiger Stadium on the campus of Martin County High School in Stuart.
The victory lifted fourth-seeded Okeechobee into the district championship game against No. 2 Martin County at 7 p.m. on May 3 at Tiger Stadium. Both teams have qualified for the 7A regionals, which will start next week.
Sean Osceola and his good friend and travel club teammate Lyon Richardson — Jensen Beach’s hard-throwing ace — kept the scoreboard full of zeroes.
“He was in there throwing strikes, getting ahead of guys, and I was trying to match him every pitch,” Osceola said. “As we got into the late innings, my command got a little bit away, but I just knew that if I threw strikes and let my defense do the work we were going to be in the game.”
Osceola worked out of a few jams and scattered five hits, fanned five, hit one batter and walked none. He was ahead in most counts for most of the night.
Osceola didn’t get the decision before being lifted after six, but his gutsy effort paved the way for the extra-inning victory. Mason Adams notched the victory with two strong innings of no-hit ball.
“Sean did a phenomenal job. He’s pitched like that his last five times out. And Mason came in and did a phenomenal job as well,” said Okeechobee coach Eric Kindell.
With two Jensen Beach runners on base in the second inning, Osceola forced a weak grounder to second to end the threat.
In the third, with runners in scoring position, Osceola got a final out strikeout on a nasty curve with a full count.
Jensen Beach again threatened in the fourth with runners at the corners and no outs, but a bunt pop out to catcher Jared Joyner turned into a 2-3 double play and Osceola got the next batter to chase a high fastball for a strikeout.
After an infield error to start the fifth, Okeechobee turned another double play.
The Brahmans didn’t muster much offense against Richardson, a University of Florida verbal commit who had at least seven radar guns aimed at him behind a backstop full of scouts. Richardson struck out seven in seven innings and allowed just one hit, which came from Sean Osceola, who muscled a single into shallow center in the fifth.
Okeechobee pushed across the only runs of the game in the eighth. Joyner reached on an outfield error to lead off. Lucas Osceola pinch ran for Joyner and with two outs stole second base, went to third on a wild pitch and scored the first run on a misplayed bunt off the bat of Deven Tedders. Two batters later, JJ Guyton scored an insurance run on a passed ball.
Okeechobee’s victory avenged an extra-inning loss to Jensen Beach in last year’s title game.
“We lost the district championship to them last year 2-1 in nine innings, so we just knew if we could get past Lyon we had a better chance,” Kindell said. “That guy is a first or second round (MLB Draft) pick. It was just a good job by the kids; a great team win tonight.”
Class 7A-District 13 final: Martin County 4, Okeechobee 0
STUART – By virtue of its semifinal win against Jensen Beach, Okeechobee had clinched a bid into the regional tournament, so a 4-0 loss to Martin County in the Class 7A-District 13 championship didn’t sting as much as it could have.
Okeechobee was held hitless until the top of the seventh when Sean Osceola, who had the night off from pitching but started at third base and later moved to first, led off with a clean single to left field for the team’s only hit of the game.
Class 7A-Region 4 quarterfinal: Okeechobee 2, Dwyer 0
PALM BEACH GARDENS – For the second time in eight days the Okeechobee High School baseball team pulled off a major upset to keep its season alive.
The Brahmans eliminated Dwyer, 2-0, in a Class 7A-Region 4 quarterfinal May 8 at Dwyer High School in Palm Beach Gardens.
Okeechobee senior pitcher Sean Osceola fired five scoreless innings against Dwyer. He combined with Mason Adams for the shutout against the 7A-District 14 champions. Dwyer has a handful of Division I college signees on its roster.
Osceola also hit a home run, one of just three hits for Okeechobee which scored its runs in the first and sixth innings.
Okeechobee upped its record to 12-13; Dwyer, which reached the state semifinals last season, finished 19-9.
Okeechobee’s victory is somewhat of a payback from a year ago when Dwyer eliminated the Brahmans in the regional quarterfinals and went on to reach the state semifinals.
Class 7A-Region 4 semifinal: Okeechobee 2, Martin County 1
STUART – Sean Osceola helped his own cause at the plate and received all the offense he needed thanks to the bat of cleanup man Koby Chapman as Okeechobee edged Martin County, 2-1, in a Class 7A-Region 4 semifinal May 3 in a rematch of the district final on Martin County’s home field.
Hooked up in another scoreless pitching duel, Osceola led off the fourth with a single to left. Chapman followed with a two-run home run to left. Chapman accounted for two of the team’s three hits.
Osceola fired six strong innings of two-hit ball with four strikeouts and one earned run. He went to three balls in the count only once all game, and that was to the leadoff batter in the first inning. As usual, his management of the strike zone was just about flawless.
“The big thing for Sean is if he gets ahead, he has three pitches he throws for strikes; not everybody has that in high school and to be able to go to other pitches where you don’t have to feed somebody a fastball that’s a nice thing to have,” said Okeechobee coach Eric Kindell.
An assist came from pitching coach Cameron Tewksbury, who calls all the pitches for Okeechobee pitchers.
“It’s been working out good the past couple games. Everything he’s called I’ve wanted to go with it. I’ve been trusting all my pitches,” Osceola said.
Mason Adams pitched the final inning. Ozzy Osceola snagged the final out of the game on a fly ball to right field with the tying run at third base.
Class 7A-Region 4 final: Doral 2, Okeechobee 0
DORAL – Okeechobee High School’s formula for its surprising run deep into the baseball postseason – relying on outstanding pitching and defense to go along with just a few hits each game – finally ran out.
The solid pitching was still there as starter Sean Osceola, of the Brighton Reservation, kept a powerful Doral Academy offense quiet for most of the Class 7A-Region 4 final May 22 in Doral, but the Brahmans’ bats failed to generate any support.
A two-run home run by freshman slugger Gabriel Gutierrez in the third inning was all Doral needed in a 2-0 win that ended Okeechobee’s remarkable playoff push that saw the underdog Brahmans – a .500 team in the regular season – eliminate Jensen Beach, Dwyer and Martin County.
“I’m super proud of these guys. They fought hard this year. We played a lot of tough teams,” said Okeechobee coach Eric Kindell, whose team finished with a 13-14 record and played in its first regional final since 2005.
Doral didn’t take Okeechobee lightly. In fact, its coach Ralph Suarez watched Okeechobee last week in the regional semifinals. He was impressed by the Brahmans in victory and in defeat.
“The boys played hard. They’ve done a tremendous job. They should be very proud,” Suarez said. “They beat some great arms. They beat the Jensen Beach kid that’s going to be a first rounder (in the MLB Draft). They beat the kid from Dwyer who signed with Miami. They play the game the right way. They make you earn your runs. They don’t give you anything for free. The coaching staff should be very proud. They’ve done a tremendous job.”
Doral will face Mitchell or Venice in a 7A state semifinal May 30 in Fort Myers.
Much of Okeechobee’s success in the playoffs came from the crisp pitching of Osceola, who, with strong late-inning appearances by Mason Adams, outdueled two of the state’s top aces: Jensen Beach’s Lyon Richardson and Dwyer’s Ryan Wimbush. Against Doral, Osceola was sharp again as he retired eight of the first nine batters from an explosive squad that averages six runs a game. Doral struck with two outs and nobody on in the third when Lency Delgado reached on a wind-affected double to the outfield that likely would have been a routine out in normal conditions, but some fly balls became adventurous with the combination of a swirling wind and part of the school building that towers above a portion of the outfield that likely impacts air currents.
Gutierrez followed by drilling a home run – his 11th and the team’s 46th of the season – into netting in right-center.
The blast didn’t rattle Osceola. He responded by retiring the side in order in the fourth on just 11 pitches with a groundout and two strikeouts. In the fifth, Doral loaded the bases with one out, but Osceola countered with a strikeout and fly out to keep Okeechobee’s hopes alive. In five innings, he scattered six hits, struck out seven and walked none.
“He attacked the strike zone and when he got hit he wasn’t afraid to come back. You can tell he’s pitched in a lot of big games, and you can’t teach that,” Suarez said.
Adams’ one inning of relief in the sixth was impressive as he struck out the side in order.
In previous playoff games, Okeechobee took advantage of the few scoring chances it had, but this time the Brahmans didn’t come through with clutch hits, or any type of hit until Adams launched a double to the left-center gap with two outs in the last inning. Adams was left stranded, similar to the first inning and fifth innings when Okeechobee left two runners each. Okeechobee didn’t help itself on the paths as one runner was picked off and another was caught stealing on a first-and-third situation.
Adrian Figueroa and reliever Victor Cabrera combined for the one-hitter as Doral improved to 25-6-1.
“I’m impressed by (Doral) and I’m impressed by my guys, too. They had a great run,” Kindell said. “They should be proud. They made Okeechobee proud.”
The loss marked the final game for the Tribe’s seniors Osceola and Layne Thomas, who did not play. The Tribe’s Ozzy Osceola, who played right field, and Lucas Osceola, who did not play, will be back next season as the squad will try to build on this year’s memorable spring.
“That’s a fun team to coach,” Kindell said. “Big group of seniors. Awesome guys. They’ve done a phenomenal job and I’m proud of all of them.”