Cypress dealt tough loss in National Classic


James Acuna had the Cypress baseball team just four outs away from a spot in the championship game of the National Baseball Classic on Wednesday afternoon at El Dorado High.

The junior right-hander held a 1-0 lead over the IMG Academy of Bradenton, Fla., with two outs and the bases empty.

But Kyle Benyo’s solo blast in the sixth and Nick Derr’s infield single with the bases loaded in the bottom of the seventh lifted the Ascenders to a 2-1 victory and dealt Acuna a tough loss.

IMG (21-4), managed by former Cincinnati Reds third baseman Chris Sabo, got six strong innings from 6-foot-5 lefty Jason Groome.

The South Carolina commit was clocked between 95-97 miles-per-hour and allowed just one run on three hits and struck out nine.

Dominic Fletcher led off the third inning with a walk off Groome, moved to second on a ground out to first and then stole third. Jarren Duran’s fielder’s choice scored Fletcher to give Cypress a 1-0 lead.

Fletcher then made what looked to be the play of the game in the bottom of the inning when IMG had runners on first and second and one out.

Derr hit a shot to deep center field that looked destined to hit the wall. But Fletcher made a diving, over-the-shoulder catch at the wall, got up and threw a strike from the wall to first base to double up Danny Blair to end inning.

But IMG’s late-inning production ruined what looked to be a signature win for the Centurions (8-8).

“James was great on the mound and we made some great plays against a very good team, but we came up a little short because we didn't execute a couple of times,” Cypress coach John Weber said. “We had two squeeze bunts we couldn't get down, but this was a playoff-like atmosphere that will serve us well as we go forward.”

Acuna (4-2, 0.85 ERA) allowed two runs on nine hits, struck out two and picked off Nick Patten in the sixth inning.

Cam Kremers got the win for IMG when the 6-foot-8 lefty went a scoreless seventh and picked off a runner.

“We hit the ball hard today, but they just made a lot of good plays,” Sabo said. “We look forward to this tournament because we don't have a state tournament like this in Florida. It really helps us gauge where we're at as a team against all the good teams out here.”

Catcher Jason Bush had two of Cypress’ four hits and threw out a would-be base stealer in the fifth.

Isaiah Parra and Fletcher had the other two base hits for Cypress, which will play in the third-place game today at 1 p.m. at El Dorado.

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