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Big Fifth Inning Lifts Westminster Academy Past Dade Christian

Westminster Academy catcher Jacob Serrano puts the tag on Dade Christian’s Denzel Linares who was out at home trying to score in the first inning.

It was hardly a thing of beauty. In fact it was downright ugly at times.

But when you’ve dropped five of your last seven games after a 10-4 start, then you will take anything you can get when it comes to finding a way to win a baseball game. And that’s exactly what manager Ernie Gonzalez and his Westminster Academy team got on Tuesday night.

In a key District 15-2A showdown with the winner putting themselves in position to secure a No. 1 seed in the upcoming district playoffs, the Lions overcame nine walks and seven wild pitches by their pitching staff along with three errors in the field to hang on and knock off Dade Christian 9-7 at Westminster Academy.

“At the end of the day, the most important thing is to find a way to win the game but we do have to play better baseball because we take a lot a pride in our defense and our pitching and we were just a little bit off today,” said Gonzalez who saw his team improve to 13-9 on the season. “Maybe coming off the Easter weekend had something to do with it so we’ll get back to the drawing board tomorrow and get some things straightened out.”

Dade Christian struggled in much the same way as the pitching staff yielded 10 free passes while committing three errors in the field as well.

Westminster Academy shortstop Robert Nedry puts the tag on Dade Christian’s Aaron Bullard who was out at second trying to steal.

But the Crusaders got off to a nice start by plating an pair of runs in the top of the first on a couple of walks and an error coupled by an RBI single from Denzel Linares and held the 2-0 lead into the last of the third.

After Westminster sliced its deficit in half when Julian Irizarry scored off a Landon Petrisko double in the third, the Lions took the lead in the fourth with a big two-out rally.

After Dade Christian starter Juan Arellano retired the first two batters in the inning, he lost the strike zone and walked the next three batters to load the bases. That set the stage for Lions shortstop Robert Nedry.

Already having a great week after committing his baseball talents to North Carolina State two days earlier, the left-hand hitting Nedry stepped up and drilled a 2-2 fast ball the opposite way to the left field fence for a bases-clearing double and 4-2 Lions lead.

“I saw they were playing way pull on me and that (left field) line was big so I was hoping he would throw me something outside,” said Nedry who also had offers from Clemson and Notre Dame on the table before choosing NC State. “He threw it on the outside corner so I just took it that way. Today was a hard fought battle and while we were not at our best, we did enough good things to come out on top.”

The two-run WA lead did not hold up for long though as the Crusaders rallied to score twice in the top of the fifth (on just one hit) to tie the game at four. Miguel Torres had the hit, an RBI single to right center but a key controversial moment that went against the Crusaders may have kept DC from scoring a lot more than two runs.

That came when Gabriel Castillo took off for home thinking WA pitcher Antonio Russo had balked. But he wound up getting caught in a rundown and tagged out when no balk call was made. Dade Christian manager Jorge Molleda argued the call and when the two umpires met, it was determined that Russo had indeed balked. But then Gonzalez trotted out from the dugout to get involved and, in a rare occurrence, the overturned call was overturned back to the original call.

“It was a balk but the rules of baseball are that you have to call the balk when it actually occurs so I had to respect the rules right there and that’s why I didn’t argue,” said Molleda. “But not getting that balk call changed everything about that inning and was a crucial moment in the game. We get a lot more than two runs there if the balk would’ve been called right away.”

With the game tied at four, Westminster busted everything wide open by scoring five times in the bottom of the inning. A leadoff walk by Petrisko followed by back-to-back perfectly dropped bunt singles by Sanders Chartier and Mike Thomas set the inning up. That was followed by an RBI single by Alex Basto and then a 2-RBI single by No. 9 hitter Michael Cespedes.

Trailing 9-4, the Crusaders didn’t go down without a fight as they plated a pair of runs without a hit in the top of the sixth thanks to a couple of walks and three consecutive wild pitches moving the runners around the bases, and a run in the seventh on an Eli Palmer triple and Linares infield single.

Westminster’s Robert Nedry connects on a bases loaded opposite field 3-RBI double to the left field fence in the 4th inning.

But freshman Frankie Russo, who relieved his older brother Antonio in the sixth, managed to record the final three outs to get the save.

“They had two balks that didn’t get called that could’ve had a direct effect on the outcome of the game but we also had our own self-inflicted wounds as well because you just can’t walk that many batters in a game and make that many misplays on defense,” said Molleda, now in his third year and has seen his team put together a nice13-8-1 season. “But at the end of the day, we’re an improving team, little by little and battled back today after being down 9-4 so I was pleased to see our kids keep fighting.”

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