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Calvary Repeat Dreams End In State Semifinals

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For Calvary Christian, the 4A state semifinal game could not have played out much better on Friday afternoon. The defending champs had their top two pitchers on the mound, and built a 3-1 lead going to the last inning.

In the seventh, however, Pensacola Catholic mounted a furious three run rally, sending home the defending champs one game earlier than they had anticipated, with a 4-3 semifinal loss.

“There’s not much I can put on these guys,” said Calvary Manager Alan Kunkel. “We didn’t make errors or a lot of mistakes. They just came up and had good at-bats in the seventh inning, and put some barrels on the ball. At the end of the day it’s baseball, and I am proud of how these guys played today and all season.”

The game began with Calvary swinging the bats early against Pensacola senior starter JC Carrell. A one-out single by Dante Girardi, followed by a base hit from Ben Rozenblum, had the Eagles in business. When the pair executed a double steal and the ball ended up in left field on the throw to third, the Eagles had an early 1-0 lead.

Calvary starter Jake Eder settled in after working out of a bases loaded jam in the first. With the pitchers trading zeroes over the next few innings, Calvary came up in the fourth and threatened to break open the game. Christian Scott led off with a triple. Cameron Stadler then struck out, but reached first when the ball got away. Victor Pimentel, who had two hits on the day for the Eagles, folowed with an RBI sacrifice fly, extending the lead to 2-0.

Tyler Knierimreached on an error, and Daley Weppner walked, loading the bases, and setting the stage for the defensive play of the game. De La Fe hit a hard ground ball to second that Donovan Whibbs and TJ Yates were able to turn into a double play, ending the threat.

“That double play in the fourth really changed the game,” said Kunkel. “At that point we were up two, and had we scored a couple more runs that would have been a lot to overcome that late in the game.”

Reedy agreed.

“When we turned that double play, it seemed to change the momentum a little bit,” said Pensacola Manager Sonny Reedy. “That kept the game close until we were able to get the bats going there at the end.”

In their half of the sixth, the Crusaders finally broke through against Eder. Matthew Estrada and Donovan Benoit both worked walks. At that point, the Eagles went to last year’s state title run hero, Christian Scott. With runners on first and third, Devin Whitehead singled, cutting the lead to 2-1. Scott was able to work out of the inning without further harm.

When Calvary answered the Crsuaders run with one of their own in the bottom of the sixth, most in attendance were expecting Scott to close out the Crusaders and send the defending champions back to the title game.

Pensacola hitters had other ideas.

Catcher Cole Moore led of the seventh with a single to center, another turning point in a game filled with emotional swings.

“I tried by hardest not to give him a take sign,” said Reedy, of his catcher. “We were thinking about taking a strike down two, but we let the guys play, and I am glad we did.”

Carl Gindl followed with a double. Estrada then came up and tripled, clearing the bases and tying the game at three.

“I knew when I hit it I had to get to third,” said Estrada.

Benoit then lifted a fly ball to center, scoring Estrada, and giving the Crusaders the lead.

From there, Estrada, who was on in relief of Carrell, induced two quick flyouts and closed the game with a strikeout, sending the Crsuaders faithful into a frenzy.

Even with the loss, Kunkel would not have done anything different.

“We had our two aces out there on the mound, a formula we followed all season, and they just beat us,” said Kunkel. “It’s baseball, and things aren’t always going to go as planned. They had a big inning at the right time.”

For Calvary, the loss ended their hopes of a repeat, but for Kunkel, the season was about much more than that.

“The later you lose, it always hurts more than if you lose in a district semifinal. But, I told these guys from the first day of practice, winning the state title is one goal, it is not the only goal. We have many goals, including building relationships that will last a lifetime. And from that perspective, we reached many of our goals.”

Alan Kunkel talks about Calvary Christian's tough loss to Pensacola Catholic.

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