Ticket Punched: Knights Headed to Regional Finals


Photo J. Burns

Coach Kevin McCray congratulates his team after their regional semifinal win.

Bailey Adams, Sports Editor

A sea of white filled the stands at Lou Garcia Field on Tuesday night for Robinson’s regional semifinal matchup with Lakewood, the first home playoff game for the Knights since 1971. Things did not look good early on for the home team, but they settled in and eventually cruised to a 7-2 victory.

“I’m proud of our guys,” head coach Kevin McCray said . “I told them that’s the way I thought it would go if we played the way we’re capable and we thankfully played the way we’re capable.”

The Spartans took an early 2-0 lead in the first off of Knights starter Patrick Kiszla (’15) when Mauro Conde (’16) launched a two-run home run to left field. From there, Kiszla settled in and held Lakewood scoreless as he went the distance. Over seven innings, he allowed just two runs on five hits while striking out three.

“It was huge,” said Kiszla. “We knew coming in that it was a big game. We just want to keep on playing and I know I had to deliver.”

After falling behind in the top of the first, the Knights quickly fought back in the bottom half of the inning. Shawn Herron (’15) drove in Matthew Steckel (’16) with a single to cut the deficit to 2-1 before Darius Autry (’15) tied the game with a single of his own. Later in the inning he stole third, drawing an errant throw from the catcher that allowed him to score, giving Robinson a 3-2 lead.

The Knights tacked on two more in the second when Jack White (’15) opened the inning with a double and later scored on a sacrifice fly by Killian McCray (’17). A 1-out double by Steckel then extended the Robinson lead to 5-2.

Meanwhile, Kiszla was finding his stride. After the home run in the first, he did not allow a runner to reach second base, working two 1-2-3 innings in the process.

Pinch-runner Kris Terry (’17) scored on a wild pitch in the third before Autry put an exclamation point on the Robinson victory. Leading off the bottom of the fifth, the Ave Maria-commit unloaded a solo home run to left-center, his second of the season and the third of his high school career.

“It’s surreal,” said Autry. “We’ve never gotten this far in the state playoffs and for us to actually do that in our senior year, it’s really fulfilling. Coach McCray set an expectation for us our freshman year. He said that this is the class that’s going to make a run and we haven’t forgotten that.”

In the seventh, a soft line drive to short ended the night, starting what would be a short celebration before the team shifted its focus to Friday. The Knights (16-10) will take on Sebring (21-9) in search of a regional championship.