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Trinity Launches a Pair of Home Runs In Win Over Highlands

Highlands Christian starting pitcher Tyson Jowers

The Trinity Christian Warriors (3-1) cruised to a big victory over the Highlands Christian Knights (1-3) on Thursday night.

Left fielder Jan Oquendo led the Warriors’ offense with two doubles and a three-run home run on the evening. Center fielder Jayden Malave hit a grand slam in the fourth and final inning of the ball game. It’s the third-straight game that Highlands Christian has lost by 10 or more runs, and Trinity Christian came in with the idea of putting up runs in a hurry.

“I told our guys to be aggressive at home plate,” Trinity Christian manager Miguel Cuello said. “We saw the pitching and we’re a very aggressive team, so I said to them that we just have to slow down and try to take the ball the other way. Don’t try to pull the ball because that’s when you get in trouble.”

Ironically enough, both homers were pulled to deep left field, but Cuello’s advice clearly resonated with the team. Only two Trinity players rounded the bases in the first inning, and Highlands matched that product immediately. Tying up the game served as a bit of a wake-up call for the Warriors, and things opened up the next inning after slowing down the approach at the plate.

“The tone changed when [Highlands Christian] tied the game,” Cuello said. “They were like ‘uh oh, wait a minute,’ and I’m telling them the game is not over. I guess after that they knew they just had to let the pitches travel and swing the bats.”

Although the final score looks rather inflated, most of the night’s runs came off of hit batters, walks and errors. The Knights allowed the deficit to slip to four runs in the second inning before Oquendo’s shot seemingly put things out of reach. He did end up going to the opposite field later in the ball game with a hard-hit line drive that bounced off the fence.

“I was just trying to focus on hitting the ball the opposite way,” Oquendo said. “I knew it was going to come in slow and I just really used my hips tonight.”

Highlands Christian first baseman Camden Scott.

The Warriors enjoyed a nice outing from sophomore Danny Goncalves. This was his first start with the varsity club, and Cuello said he liked what he saw from the young right-hander. In three innings of work, he struck out four and gave up two runs (one earned) on two hits and no walks. He wanted to finish off the game, but junior left-hander Eddie Velasquez was called into action so he could get some throws in before next week’s tournament.

“I took [the opportunity] as more exciting than intimidating,” Goncalves said. “I felt like I was ready for it. I felt like I was comfortable with my pitches after a good amount of time on the mound, and that made it a lot easier.”

Goncalves may be young, but he’d be a veteran at Highlands. There isn’t a junior or a senior on the squad, and only one player has varsity experience. In fact, two seventh-graders started in tonight’s lineup for the Knights. One of them batted second in the order. With a team so young, Knights manager Bruce Charlebois knows that finding the silver linings in a loss like this is worth it.

“Tonight before the game we talked about David and Goliath,” Charlebois said. “He takes a rock and knocks down a giant and they win the war. I thought in the first inning they came out a lot like David. We don’t have the horses to maintain the endurance needed in a game against a good club like this, but as we move forward — and if we can keep our core guys healthy — we have no intentions of laying down.”

Charlebois pointed out several moments of brilliance he saw from his team in the game, including the effort from freshman starting pitcher Tyson Jowers. A flurry of errors and misplays caused 11 runs to cross the plate under his watch, but only three of them were earned. It’s the second time something like this has happened to Jowers this season, but he’s the team’s ace-in-training and he’s rolling with the punches.

“I had the same mindset as I would with any start,” Jowers said. “I didn’t really get in my head too much, and I had to have confidence that my defense would make plays for me. [When it doesn’t happen], you just move on to the next play and tell them to have the same confidence in themselves.”

Highlands Christian second baseman Caleb Wahlers.

Seeing his team provide some run support early was a confidence booster for Jowers. He said answering back isn’t something that the team has had this season, and it could end up making the difference in a closer game.

Moving forward, things are just about getting better one day at a time for the Knights. There’s a lot of baseball to be played and the games that count most come later on in the year.

“We have always gotten off to a slow start,” Charlebois said. “By the time we get life figured out, build some confidence and turn moments of brilliance into consistency, I don’t think anyone’s going to want to play us in the districts.”

The St. Andrew’s Scots (5-2) are up next for Highlands Christian on Friday at 7 p.m. EST, and then the winless Miami Brito Panthers visit the Knights on Monday.

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