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Long Ball Carries Calvary Christian Past Chaminade-Madonna

Christian Scott struck out 14 in a complete-game effort to help lead Calvary Christian to victory.

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When a team has a pitcher like Christian Scott on the mound, it is capable of dangerous things. The Calvary Christian senior pitcher is well-known in baseball circles, and for good reason. While Scott was at his best in Tuesday’s 4A-7 semifinal against Chaminade-Madonna, his offense worked wonders in boosting him up at all the right moments.

That combination proved too lethal even for a Lions teams that played clean, team baseball, as Calvary prevailed with a 6-2 decision over Chaminade at DeVos Family Stadium at the Westminster Academy Sports Complex. Scott went the distance on the mound and struck out 14 batters, and Dante Girardi and Mykanthony Valdez both hit home runs to lead the way at the plate.

“It was awesome,” Scott said of the offensive support. “We know we have one of the best offenses in the nation and for the team to come out and show everybody that is great. Mykanthony had a great swing, coming in cold, Dante had a great swing, and it was the first time he’s left the yard all year. It was a great performance by everybody really, one-through-nine, and even Mikey, who came in late. So it was really a team effort.”

Girardi delivered an outstanding performance, falling a triple short off hitting for the cycle. The sophomore got it started with his solo drive to left with one out in the top of the first inning, which delivered a lead the Eagles (12-15) never surrendered.

Staked with a lead before he ever even took the mound, Scott seemed even more energized by the early run support. While many pitchers typically take a bit to settle in, the first inning may have been Scott’s best. Mixing speeds between pitches he quickly established his off-speed pitches, while pounding his fastball into the mix to keep the batters guessing. Scott knew his team was already ahead and he pitched like it.

Mykanthony Valdez celebrates after his pinch-hit, two-run home run in the seventh.

“It’s for sure a confidence-booster,” Scott said of starting the game already ahead. “When you start with the lead you know you have a little bit of leeway to pitch with, if you make a mistake you’re not going to go down in the score. It was great having that confidence. I knew that I needed to locate all of my pitches, especially deep in the playoffs. I wanted to start and locate the changeup and locate the curveball for strikes. When I was able to do that to start off the playoff run was great stuff.”

While Daley Weppner helped extend Calvary’s lead by scoring on a passed ball in the second, it took a bit longer for the Lions (17-8) to figure out Scott. After going down in order the first time through the lineup, leadoff hitter Chris Schoeller connected for Chaminade’s first hit when he stroked a clean double into left field leading off the fourth. An inning later Gianni Tusa got the Lions on the scoreboard with a solo home run to left. Noah Izquierdo then helped keep that momentum going by reaching on a base hit and scoring on a throwing error that cut Calvary’s lead in half at 4-2 going into the fifth.

“They played with energy throughout, they played a clean game and they never gave up. We went down to the last out and last breath, and that is the best thing that a coach can hope for from a team,” Chaminade-Madonna manager Jorge Miranda said. “I’m very proud of my guys in the way that they came out and played. We had a lot of energy, we came out and we swung it well. The difference in a ball game like this is who is on the mound, and Christian Scott is not only one of the better pitchers in the state of Florida but possibly one of the better pitchers in the country. When you can go out there and command three pitches for strikes and keep hitters off balance with good changeups and good sliders, it is really hard to score runs, and we were able to grind out two runs.”

Calvary accounted for the winning run in the top of the fifth, again thanks to Girardi. The shortstop led off the frame with a double into the left-center field gap, advanced to third off a passed ball and scored when Roberto Pena sent an RBI single into right field. Pena swiped a pair of bases to then also score thanks to an RBI single from Weppner.

After Chaminade got back into the game with both their runs, Valdez provided the final burst of momentum for the Eagles with his two-run blast in the top of the seventh. David Judge singled up the middle with one out, and Valdez came on as a pinch-hitter with the intent to drive the ball. He put a big swing on the right pitch and sent it over the left field fence for the final runs of the ball game.

Chaminade’s Gianni Tusa is greeted by his teammates at the plate after his solo home run in the fifth inning.

The game lived up to the large caliber of expectations between two of the heavyweights in the district. The Eagles advance to take on Westminster Academy (17-7), who defeated SLAM 10-2 in the other semifinal to also advance. For most of the season Calvary led the district standings, before the program forfeited several district games that shook up the district seedings. Had things remained the way the results had played out on the field, Tuesday’s meeting would not have been possible until the championship.

While no team wants to face a national contender in a playoff elimination game, the contest is still just another chapter in a budding rivalry. After the game both teams huddled in prayer on the field together, parting as friends now that the action was over.

“I have a lot of respect for what Kunk does over there, obviously with me being over there for one year. I know the values that those young men have and it’s things that we try to emulate over here at Chaminade,” Miranda said. “The same way that they’re building over there, we’re trying to build over here. I’m hoping that it’s a rivalry that we don’t have to see each other in the semifinals, and that we can continue to see each other in district championships. What we’ve done in two years and what it looks like in the future, hopefully it is a good rivalry in that future.”

Members form Calvary Christian and Chaminade-Madonna huddle for a group prayer following the game.

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