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Coral Springs Christian Reaches State For First Time

Crusaders ace Touki Toussaint went the distance on the mound for the win.

An imposing figure on the mound. One arm that brings scouts from all around the country. A smile that shows pride and an acknowledgement of how good he knows he is. A violent windup, and above all else, an arm ready to perform its task. Ready-aim-fire. A thunder is felt after the ball makes contact with the catcher’s glove, followed by the scout’s hoard checking the speed. Now the faces are in awe. That is the norm in five seconds of a Touki Toussaint pitch.

Toussaint is one of a kind. His arm is definitely not mechanically engineered, but could have been for all we know. Coral Springs Christian relies on him for its big games. None as important as the meeting Friday against the Westminster Warriors. In the 3A regional championship Crusaders Manager Matt Cleveland gave the ball to the future first round pick to get them the trophy. Toussaint answered with a complete-game performance en route to an 8-4 victory and the school’s first-ever trip to the state finals.

Toussaint’s performance was not up to his standards, but considering he was facing the most dangerous lineup in Miami-Dade, his day gets becomes memorable. He finished with seven strikeouts and only allowed five hits.

“It was not my best day; I did not have my best stuff,” Toussaint said. “I am a competitor, so I have to compete all the time. I had to do it for my teammates; I just don’t do it for myself. We are a family, we have to care for each other. We all came in here with a winning mentality. We all knew that if we did what we had to do, we had a chance to win the game. It is all about the team. Without my teammates, I can’t be who I am today.”

Moments after receiving an iced water celebration courtesy of Toussaint, Cleveland said that he was happy with the fact that even if his ace allowed four runs, most of them came on hits.

Benito Santaigo avoids the tag of his counterpart.

“Only one run scored on a walk. He was on the zone most of the day, and that just shows the maturity and how much he has matured in the last year,” Cleveland said of his ace’s performance. “He is very confident. It has been a process for him since he has a lot of attention. There are a lot of people that try to nit-pick from him, but the people that are around him are the people that care about him. Is not easy being a guy like him. He has handled it with class. He has been able to adjust to the pressure of being him and this year he has been nice and comfortable.”

Cleveland also added some praise for his lineup that was on fire on the afternoon from top to bottom.

“It was a total team win. Up and down the lineup, great at-bats, battling” Cleveland said. “They had a good guy on the mound that didn’t give us anything, didn’t walk a bunch of guys; we had to earn everything. My team just executed the approaches that we talked about, made all the plays on defense when we needed them. This is the deepest lineup I have ever coached. There is no easy out. Our nine-hole has gotten big hits for us in big games this year. They all practice the same amount. They are all just as important and I have total trust in eleven guys that can go in and get the job done. That is the strength of our team, being able to have a deep lineup and put good at-bats all the way through.”

With ten hits against the Warriors, Coral Springs (23-7) produced eight runs. The bottom of the order responded. The eight-hole hitter James Buckley hit the ball of the game. In the second inning being down by one, the Crusaders put a man early on with a hit. Next was Buckley to bat. He looked dominated by Westminster starter John Gonzalez, who was blowing fastballs by him. With the count 2-2, the lefty tried a breaking ball that was left hanging and Buckley disappeared it over the right field fence.

“I am ecstatic,” Buckley said. “Touki pitched great, we had great hitting. Batting last, I expected fastballs and was ready to go all the time. Been down 2-2, I knew he was coming with something off-speed. My coaches have been working on that pitch all week because I have not hit it. He threw it right where we have been practicing it and I just turned right on it.”

Going against Toussaint, the Westminster offense had a tough task at hand. The Warriors (23-5-1) tried to hit the fastballs of Toussaint and were successful, even connecting for two home runs, a two-run bomb by Dakota Robbins and another by Yuri Sucart. The senior-duo finished 4-for-6, leading most of the offense.

For the Warriors that had extremely high expectations for the season, the day could have gone better. Most of the team was sad, and some couldn’t avoid showing their emotions.

Yuri Sucart celebrates with his teammates after blasting a home run to left field.

The catcher Robbins was extremely emotional after the game.

“I think I am a little in shock right now,” Robbins said. “This is my fifth year on varsity. I don’t know anything else besides Emil and the coaching staff here, this field, and I have gone through all the changes here for everything. I just don’t know what to think right now, to be honest.”

Robbins spent over ten minutes on the home plate, trying to get as much as he could from the space that he called “home” for the last five years.

“That is all I know,” Robbins said. “That circle right here at Westminster is all I know. I wanted one last time here in the circle.”

Westminster Christian Manager Emil Castellanos explained the kind of player that Robbins is.

“Dakota is an unbelievable player. He is one of our captains,” Castellanos said. “When he hit that home run, I know that is the type of player that he is. He is going to Auburn University for a reason. You’ll see more of him in the near future.”

After leading the Warriors to the regional finals, the players had their expectations cut. Coming into the season anything short of states was a disappointment for the club.

“Performance-wise at the plate, I am extremely happy. We hit two home runs, we minimized our strike outs. I think we did what any good team will do against Touki. We gave him the best we could have done. The guy is unbelievable on the mound,” Castellanos said. “At the end of it all against a great team, you cannot make mistakes. You make mistakes you are going to lose. There is no room for mistakes in playoff baseball. Against a good team like them, we did what we had to do at the plate, but we didn’t do what we had to do on the field. That is why we lost the ballgame.”

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