For a while, it didn't look like it would be the Key West High baseball team's night.
A double play turned by Canterbury School of Fort Myers wiped out a promising first-inning start for the Conchs. Starting pitcher Greg Veliz had to be pulled after two innings, during which he walked a batter and hit two. The modest-sized Wednesday night crowd at Rex Weech Field was so quiet the whine of the lights clearly could be heard.
Coming to bat in a scoreless game in the bottom of the fourth, the Conchs had yet to get a hit. "We were a little bit flat," said coach Ralph Henriquez.
Key West needed a spark and Andy Perez, the leadoff batter in the fourth, seemed to provide it when he beat out a bunt. But that spark was quickly extinguished when he was picked off first base by pitcher Tyler Shuck with, what Henriquez said, was a "balk-like move."
Canterbury's tale of hope -- the Cougars had lost to Key West, 14-1, the night before -- continued.
And then, in mere moments, it was shattered. The Conchs strung together six hits that produced five runs, awakening the crowd and making the whine of the lights inaudible. From there, Key West cruised to an 8-1 victory.
Veliz beat out an infield hit and scored on a double to left by Hugo Valdes. Brandon Presley, after badly missing a high pitch, drove a single past the third baseman to score Valdez. Hunter Sellers, Chris Varela and Jay Feathers then followed with singles, Feathers' hit driving in the inning's final two runs.
Feathers, a junior, was the winning pitcher, hurling three scoreless innings, allowing only an infield hit.
"He did a hell of a job again," said Henriquez, who calls Feathers Mr. Utility because he also plays the outfield and the middle-infield positions. "One of the most important guys on the team," the coach said.
The game dragged on, mainly because of the many conferences the Cougars held on the mound, each one greeted with the theme from "Jeopardy" over the public-address system.
The Conchs added two runs in the sixth on a double by Valdes and a fielder's-choice RBI by Sellers. A wild pitch in the sixth inning scored Steven Wells, who had tripled, with the eighth run. Wells extended his hitting streak to six games, including two preseason contests.
Sophomore pitcher Hunter Mattheessen made his debut in the sixth and pitched a scoreless inning. Canterbury finally scored on a sacrifice fly in the seventh against Sellers.
Canterbury, which was missing three players because of basketball playoffs and came into Key West with three victories, including one over Marathon, 7-2, was called a "scrappy average high school team" by Henriquez.
The Conchs, who improved to 3-1, will host Keys Gate in the District 16-4A opener at 7:30 tonight, and hope to have senior Darren Miller back as a designated hitter. A pitcher/infielder, Miller has been sidelined with a strained forearm.