Polo Park Middle School’s Jace Humphrey pitched four innings, gave up one earned run, drove in two runs and scored another to lead the Polo Park Middle School Stallions to a 4-3 victory against the Don Estridge Middle School Dragons to win the Palm Beach County middle school boys baseball championship.
The game took place on the afternoon of Tuesday, Oct. 31 on Polo Park’s campus in Wellington. It was the second such title for Polo Park in the last three years, and the third in school history. Polo Park’s other county titles were in 2008 and 2021, all of them under the leadership of Craig Kaliser, who just completed his 17th year as head coach of the boys baseball program at Polo Park.
“All season long, our mantra has been to throw strikes, play good defense and to put pressure on our opponents by running the bases well,” said Kaliser, who also teaches physical education at the school.
For the most part, Kaliser’s squad did just that until two sixth-inning miscues nearly cost the Stallions the game.
Don Estridge grabbed an early 1-0 lead in the top of the third inning when Adam Glathorn drove in teammate Jace Hughes with a two-out single to center.
In the bottom of the third, Polo Park had a strong response. The team batted around, sending nine players to the plate. Polo Park first baseman Tony Evans opened the inning with a single. Evans then stole second as teammate Jack Hanson struck out swinging. Then, leadoff hitter Stanly Alcala singled to left centerfield, which advanced Evans to third. Alcala scampered to second on an errant throw back to the infield, which put runners on second and third with one out. Humphrey helped his own cause by then driving in both Evans and Alcala with a single to left field. Four batters later, Humphrey scored his team’s third run on a bases-loaded walk to shortstop Will Eaton. That gave Polo Park a 3-1 lead.
In the bottom of the fifth, Humphrey walked to open the inning, stole second and was driven home by catcher Samuel Vatterott’s single to center. Polo Park’s lead grew to 4-1.
In the top of the sixth inning, Don Estridge’s last at-bat inning, the Dragons mounted a comeback with some assistance from Polo Park. With one out, Glathorn took first after being hit by a pitch thrown by Polo Park’s Eaton, who had relieved Humphrey after four innings of pitching. Don Estridge’s next hitter, Stephen Cenkar, hit a potential game-ending double-play grounder to Polo Park’s best infielder, second baseman Jack Hanson, but Hanson misplayed the ball, which put runners on first and second with one out. Eaton got a second out on a grounder to third baseman Trey Hamilton, but both runners advanced to second and third on Hamilton’s throw to first.
With two outs, two runners aboard and trailing 4-1, Don Estridge’s Jason Blair hit a potential game-ending grounder to Polo Park’s Hanson, who cleanly fielded the ball, but his errant throw to first allowed Don Estridge’s two runners to score, which made the score 4-3 in favor of Polo Park. Hanson’s throwing error put Blair on second, which made him the potential game-tying run. However, Eaton was able to get Don Estridge’s Jaidyn Studley to fly out to right field to end the game. Polo Park right fielder Benny Alonso, the only holdover from the 2021 championship team, made the game-ending catch to seal the 4-3 victory.
The Stallions earned their way to the championship game by virtue of blanking the Conservatory School, 16-0, on Tuesday, Oct. 24 in the round of 16. Two days later, Polo Park defeated Jupiter Middle School 8-2 in extra innings in the quarterfinals. Finally, on Friday, Oct. 27, Polo Park continued its winning ways by defeating Independence Middle School 15-4 in the semifinals to advance to the championship game against Don Estridge Middle School.
Polo Park finished the season with a 12-1-1 record.