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Hallandale Nips Stranahan 15-14 In Marathon Conclusion

Anthony Moron had an RBI double to drive in the winning run for the Chargers.

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April has been a rewarding month for the Hallandale Chargers.

Playing their second game of the month, the Chargers earned their second straight victory as well. With an eye on finishing strong to end the season, Hallandale found just enough plays to get past Stranahan 15-14 Tuesday afternoon at Johnson Park in Hallandale.

Although the game concluded under the spray of April showers, it actually began under the cool air of winter back at season’s start in February. With the game tied at 11-11 in the top of the fifth, it was called due to darkness and postponed as part of a doubleheader in the rematch on Tuesday. Due to unrelenting rain storms that forced the postponement of the second contest, the conclusion of the first meeting was all that Mother Nature allowed.

Hallandale improved to 7-10 with four games left to play, putting their goal within reach.

“Our goal for the next couple of games is to win those last games so we can finish at .500 for the season,” said Chargers Manager Greg Conde. “That’s the plan and that is what we are striving for right now; and to achieve that goal will be our district title for us in our own mindset.”

Already enjoying their most successful season in some time, the Chargers are aware that there is still a lot of work to get done in order to put them on the map. But they also are beginning to click and see the fruits of all the hard work they have put in all season long.

“First and foremost, I want to compliment Coach Conde,” said Stranahan Manager Marc Iannatto. “We played these guys at the beginning of the season and you can see that their level of baseball has increased from the beginning of the season to the end of the season. Even though they are still a young team, they look much better, so compliments to him first and foremost.”

The Chargers played this season as an independent program, and therefore there is no postseason or district playoff to look forward to. Instead there are only the games they have left, and then a dedication to the offseason in order to get this team ready to take that next step in their evolution next year and beyond.

“We’re growing and we’ve just got to keep growing,” said Conde. “It’s been pretty much the young guys that are carrying things along because they are lot more hungry than my older guys and they apply themselves more. As a whole, our whole team has come along. Everybody is showing up to practice and they are working and they are buying into the program.”

Jonathan Ortiz alowed three unearned runs and recorded two strikeouts to earn the victory on the mound.

The biggest area of improvement has been with the offense. After managing just three hits through the first five innings in February, Hallandale struck for six hits in the final two frames on Tuesday.

Anthony Moron plated the deciding run on an RBI double that scored Jalin LeAndre as part of a three-run sixth inning that put Hallandale up 15-11. Mark Pierre sparked the inning when he sat back on 0-2 offering and rolled it through the left side, then moved around the bases when Darwin Jean reached on an error and scored on a successful double-steal play. Rafael Sanchez stung an 0-2 pitch into left field for a single to follow, and Jean scored when Jonathan Ortiz reached on a fielder’s choice to bring Moron up to bat.

Freshman Pablo Oden set the tone right away when he lined the first pitch he saw into left field for an RBI single. Since the game returned to action with runners on the corners and two outs in the top of the fifth, Oden decided that if he saw a good first pitch he would swing and try to make something happen. This paved the way to a 3-for-4 finish to the game for Oden, as well as scoring Sanchez for the third time in the process.

“I felt very good. I think to be very calm,” said Oden. “I don’t like to think just about hitting a home run; all I want is contact. That’s what my coach and my father have always taught me.”

Pierre also had a strong showing, going 3-for-5 with an RBI and two runs. While the results themselves pleased Coach Conde, what mattered most was that his guys brought an approach to the plate with them and they are doing what they have been working on in practice.

Austin Ford suffered the loss despite allowing just one earned run. Ford went three innings and struck out the side in the seventh.

“The offense has been what has been keeping us in games, for the most part,” said Conde. “They have come a long way swinging and they are learning how to be patient. That’s the best part. We’re swinging well and everybody has learned that it is about being patient, seeing a pitch and looking for fastballs while laying off the soft stuff.”

Across the diamond the Dragons (4-9-1) are also a young club with a lot of potential. Offense has been their bread-and-butter this season, but Coach Iannatto admitted that lately the bats have cooled off. It was a big eight-run third inning that helped pace Stranahan in their first half of the contest back in February, and now Iannatto is hoping their three-run burst with their final swings can reignite that offensive fire.

Down to their final outs and trailing by four in the bottom of the seventh, Stranahan rallied back. Wilfred Santiago, Michael McCoy and Austin Ford all reached on errors to open the door of opportunity with one out, and Santiago crossed home when Austin reached. Damon Urbanik drew a walk that loaded the bases, and Andy Vargas delivered an RBI single that pushed in McCoy and also kept the bags juiced.

Patience rewarded Chris Ford with an RBI walk that put the tying run on third base and also prompted Sanchez to come on to relieve Jonathan Ortiz. Sanchez then induced a grounder for a fielder’s choice that held the runners after interference was ruled on the play, followed by a strikeout that ended the game and earned him the save.

Although their comeback bid fell just short, Coach Iannatto sees promise in what the late offense can do for them as they look for an upset bid in the upcoming district playoffs.

The Dragons found their swings again on Tuesday afternoon.

“Hopefully today they can see that they can still come back,” said Iannatto. “Even though we were down we still came back and it was a close game. It was baseball and a really good game in the end, and I just wish my guys would have woken up earlier.”

With the playoffs not an option for Hallandale, the true testament to the players has been their willingness to buy in and work for the long-term goals. While some of the veterans likely will not be around to enjoy the rewards for all their hard work, they are comforted in knowing what the promising young players on this club can ultimately help them build. Together they have all worked hard this year, and the future is something for them all to be excited about.

“Coach Conde pushes us a lot and we know that he loves us and wants us to be better,” said Oden. “I wasn’t ever really thinking to come to Hallandale because I thought of all the bad stuff that you hear; but I love it and I love Coach Conde. It makes me feel good that I have a whole bunch of years here and I am hoping to get better and better every year, every day, every hour and every second.”

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