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CS Christian Wins The Day 6-3 Over Benjamin

Touki Toussaint threw a complete game for Coral Springs Christian.

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The Coral Springs Christian baseball team experienced heartache last year that few other teams have had to deal with. The Crusaders fell one game short of Fort Myers, causing them to do some soul-searching in the off-season. The result was adopting a motto of “win the day.”

On Wednesday afternoon, the Crusaders played like a team on a mission, falling behind 3-0 early, and then storming back to defeat Benjamin 6-3 in a regional quarterfinal match-up. Despite falling behind early, the Crusaders held their motto in their heads as they came from behind for the victory.

“Win the day,” said ace right-hander Touki Toussaint. “That is what we are always trying to do. Even when we fell behind, we knew we could come back. It’s a seven inning game, and we had to win each inning after the first, and we were able to do that.”

The game could not have started any worse for Toussaint and his teammates. Benjamin, a team featuring only three junior or senior starters, showed up ready for Toussaint. The fact that many believe Toussaint will be a first round draft pick next month in the Major League Baseball draft did not deter the young Buccaneers from coming in confident.

In the top of the first, after Kyle Ruedisili and Matt Ellmyer walked, Zach Zientarski hit a towering opposite field three-run home run, shocking the Crusader fans that were in attendance.

“That was a great start,” said Benjamin Manager Brian Kaplan. “Anytime you are facing a talent as good as Touki, you have to try and scratch something out early. You know you aren’t going to get too many chances, and that home run was big for us.”

The three-run homer would have rattled most teams, especially considering the Buccaneers were throwing a Major League talent of their own, lefty Bennett Sousa, but the Crusaders took the blast in stride.

“We have been there before this year,” said Crusaders Manager Matt Cleveland. “When we were in North Carolina, we fell behind in every game we played, and we came back to win three of those four games against some very quality arms. Today is the reason we scheduled like we did this year, to make sure these guys were ready when they faced adversity late in the season.”

The Crusaders celebrate during their 6-3 victory on Wednesday afternoon…

The veteran CS Christian players responded with a championship pedigree. In the bottom of the first, an error opened the door for the Crusaders first run of the game. After the error, Eric Hepple doubled, and Benito Santiago then came in on a passed ball to cut the lead to 3-1.

The third and fourth innings was where CS Christian turned the game. They combined for seven hits and five runs in the two innings, turning a 3-1 deficit into a 6-3 lead. Cary Boniske had the big hit in each inning.

In the third, Boniske had an RBI single that was followed by a Joey Depalo RBI single that tied the game.

In the fourth, Boniske broke the 3-3 tie with a bases-loaded, two-out, two-RBI single to right. Santiago completed the bases-clearing play when he scored on an outfield error that allowed the Boniske hit to get to the fence.

So how did the Crusaders solve the mystery of Sousa? It all came down to their approach.

“Coach Cleve (Cleveland) was telling us to work on letting the fastball get deep on the plate, and hitting the ball the other way,” said Boniske. “That allowed us to see the ball longer, and lay off of the slider down. It was an approach we worked hard on, and today we were able to execute it.”

Toussaint, meanwhile, showed everyone in attendance the reason why he is considered a top draft pick by many, showing the poise to rebound from a rough start. After the three-run homer in the first, the senior allowed only one hit the rest of the way, striking out 10 Buccaneers in the process.

“We worked too hard to get in this position,” said Toussaint. “I told the guys to just get me a few runs, and I had faith they would do that. Once they did, I had to make sure they (Benjamin) didn’t score again.”

For Boniske, the attitude was opposite of Toussaint’s.

“When you have a guy like that on the mound, you know they aren’t getting much more than they did in the first. So it was up to us to stay focused and just win the rest of the day from there.”

Cary Boniske had three RBIs on the day for the Crusaders.

With their “win the day” mentality, the Crusaders have now crept within two games of reaching the state final four for the first time in school history. Coral Springs Christian will wait until today to find out their next opponent, as district rival Westminster Academy’s game with defending state champion Melbourne Central Catholic was postponed until noon today.

For Benjamin, the game served as a learning experience.

“That is one of the most talented teams in the area, and one that has enough to make a long run in these playoffs,” said Kaplan. “Am I happy we lost? No. A couple fielding errors changed the game, and we didn’t play well enough to beat a team like that. But I am very happy with how these guys battled today. We started three sophomores, two freshmen, and an eighth-grader today, so some of those mistakes are expected with a young team.”

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