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Calvary Advances To Regional Semis

Noah Dietz (6) closed out the game for Calvary Christian Academy, hurling 2.1 innings in relief of starter Franco Ruocco.

The Calvary Christian Academy Eagles treated a packed ballpark to a 9-2 regional quarterfinal win over the Pine Crest Panthers on Tuesday afternoon.

The victory was never in doubt as Calvary jumped out to a 5-0 lead in the first two innings and never looked back. The product produced on the field by the Eagles on Tuesday was a far cry from what last year’s group managed, and second-year manager Wayne Rosenthal gives all the credit to his players for coming together and buying into the system.

“When you play as one, as a family, and there aren’t any egos on the team, it’s a dangerous thing,” Eagles manager Wayne Rosenthal said. “One thing about these guys that we preach from the get-go is that we’re going to be a family, we’re going to do everything together and back each other up. That’s what these guys are doing… Nobody is one person. God put us together as a unit, and we’re playing together as a family.”

Franco Ruocco got the start and nearly made it through five innings. He faced one more than the minimum through the first three innings of the ball game, but leadoff walks in the fourth and fifth came back to bite him and ultimately led to Ruocco exiting the game. It was his first outing in a few weeks, and Rosenthal said he was pleased with what he saw from Ruocco.

Noah Diehl got the final out of the fifth for Calvary Christian and closed out the final two innings as well. Neither arm racked up an exorbitant amount of strikeouts, but it was enough to get the job done with the offense flowing. Diehl has been the team’s hottest arm and should be available for most playoff games moving forward.

Kingsley Guthrie (16) celebrates a home run with his Calvary Christian Academy teammates.

Four of Calvary’s first five runs came off errors and/or wild pitches, but the fourth inning brought some more traditional scoring. Johnathan Gomez and Carlos Lugo each singled in a run, putting Calvary up 7-1, and a leadoff home run from Kingsley Guthrie in the fifth served as the dagger.

Guthrie missed roughly two weeks of action with an injury, but it’s safe to say he’s back at 100 percent after sending the no-doubter over the left-field wall. The Eagles catcher knew it was gone off the bat and took his time exiting the box.

“I was hurt, but I couldn’t really do nothing about that,” Guthrie said. “I was a little upset and a little banged up, but my team came to win. Obviously, I felt good at the plate. When I hit the bomb it felt great. I got excited a little bit, pimped it, had some fun and came out with a dub. It was a great team win.”

Guthrie used the same word that his coach did to describe the difference between the 2023 Eagles and the 2022 club: family. Putting each other first and playing for one another may seem like the kind of cliches coaches and players fall back on when they don’t have an answer, but the Eagles are very tangible proof that those concepts can make a real difference in a hurry.

Calvary Christian will face Monsignor Pace in the semifinals on Friday at home. It’s already been a successful season for the Eagles, but there’s no reason to slow down now with just two wins between them and a trip to Fort Myers.

Pine Crest lines up for a final time in 2023 after falling in the regional quarterfinals.

For Pine Crest, the loss marks the end of a season that’s sparked some hope for the program. First-year manager Rob Conver snapped a decade-long streak of missing the regional tournament and led the Panthers to their first 10-win season since 2018.

“I’m proud of them, especially the seniors,” Conver said. “The last three years, they didn’t even win as many games combined as they did this year, and it’s 100 percent on them and their leadership. I hurt for them. Some of them aren’t playing baseball anymore. To go out like this, it’s going to hurt, but they got to taste playoff baseball.”

Five seniors will leave the program, but the bulk of the starting lineup will return next year to build off what they accomplished this season. The Panthers could very easily follow the path the Eagles took over the past two years and become a regional powerhouse in 2024. It sounds like the foundation is already in place for that “family” feeling to sink in.

“More than anything, I’m going to remember how much this team worked,” he said. “They grew from September all the way to May. Some new guys were added, and we lost two or three guys along the way to injuries, but someone always stepped up. I’m excited for them to come back next year.”

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