McChrystal’s Grand Slam Wins Westminster Tournament For Panthers
Coral Springs Charter did not get much offense generated through the first five innings of Friday’s championship game of the Westminster Spring Break Tournament. One swing of the bat by Joe McChrystal in the sixth proved to be all the Panthers needed to claim the title 5-2 over host Westminster.
Daniel D’onofrio, Westminster’s closer in most situations, started the championship for the Lions. It was the team’s fourth game of the week, so going to D’onofrio was a logical choice for head coach Nick James, and the move nearly paid off. For five innings, D’onofrio dazzled on the mound, allowing only two hits, both to eventual tournament MVP Colton Rogers.
In the sixth, with his team leading 2-1 and on the verge of winning the tournament, D’onofrio worked his way into the first major jam of the game. Stephen Kerr led off the inning with a hustling double to left. With the tying run in scoring position, Rogers then followed with his third hit of the game. The ball was knocked down by second baseman Blake Kidwell, but no play could be made with either runner. With Panthers on first and third, Matt Merek walked, loading the bases with nobody out.
D’onofrio then showed some mental toughness when he struck out both Brandon Laboy and Trevor Kane. With the Panthers’ tournament hopes hanging in the balance, McChrystal, a sophomore who self-admittedly has been struggling this season, strode to the plate. With one swing of the bat, McChrystal drove a soaring fly ball over the left-center field fence and suddenly a 2-1 deficit turned into a 5-2 Coral Springs Charter lead.
“I had a rough tournament hitting the ball,” said a jubilant McChrystal after the win. “but the coaches and coach Higgins kept me up, and kept their confidence in me. I just felt like I had to come through for this team, and luckily I did. It’s great to know I contributed to us winning the tournament. There’s no feeling like it.”
Equally as excited after the game was MVP Rogers. The senior had three hits in the game and also got the win in relief. Rogers was on the mound and the winning pitcher in two of the Panthers’ four games in the tournament.
“I was so scared I almost couldn’t watch,” said Rogers, in describing his reaction to McChrystal’s home run. “When I saw the ball come off the bat, I knew it was a grand slam. It was the best feeling in the world.
When asked about being the tournament MVP, Rogers appeared still in shock.
“I can’t imagine ever doing this good. It feels unbelievable. We have worked hard this year to gel and to put all the pieces of the puzzle together, and it feels amazing to come together and win this tournament.”
Westminster also had reason to be proud on this day. The Lions took the lead in the second inning when they scored two runs on three hits against Panthers starter Merek. Zack Gonzalez, Daniel Burns and D’onofrio all had hits in the inning, and the two runs looked like they would hold up for most of the game. Even with the loss, James had nothing but good things to say about his teams performance in the tournament.
“I’m thrilled to death, for us to come in here and go 3-1 and to compete with a great team like Coral Springs Charter,” James said. “We learned a lot about our ball club, and we’ve actually learned a lot over the past few weeks playing games against Calvary and CS Christian. All we want each game is an opportunity to compete, and as young as we are, the players have responded great to what we are trying to get done.”
As for Coral Springs Charter, it won all four games in the tournament without ace Nick Scahill on the mound. Scahill took the week to continue his physical therapy from surgery that kept him out last season. The senior has already committed to Harvard and has been increasing his stamina in the early part of the year.
The Panthers will not have the ability to savor this victory for long as they play three key District 4A-13 games this week, starting with Chaminade-Madonna on Tuesday night. They will then complete a tie game from earlier in the season with Pine Crest on Friday before playing their regularly scheduled game afterward.
“This whole season has been a process, and winning this tournament was great, but we have to stay focused. With our district, we’ve got seven teams with seven front-line pitchers who can compete with anybody on any given day,” Higgins said. “I’m very realistic on keeping this tournament in perspective, and our guys have bought into our system, and I know they are going to continue to work to make sure we get better each game.”