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Trinity Christian Comes Up Short In State Final

Danny Nugent made the start and worked into the sixth inning while striking out four.

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In every classification in the state of Florida, only one team celebrates victory at the end of the season. Yet very few teams get to experience the thrill of the state tournament before that tough ending comes. In nine of the last ten years the Trinity Christian Eagles have done just that in reaching the state Final Four, where they have won three state titles during that stretch.

But this year it was not to be, as instead the Trinity Christian Warriors from Lake Worth earned their second straight 2A state title following an 8-3 win over the Eagles, Thursday night at Hammond Stadium in Fort Myers.

“For us to be able to make it here with this group of guys, it is a lot to say about them,” Eagles manager Bryan Maples said. “This is a team that knew that they would be the underdogs the entire season. They never quit, they never gave up and they kept fighting to be able to make it here. If you’re going to lose, this is the best place to do it.”

The Warriors (22-6) struck for the decisive runs in the fourth inning to erase a 1-0 deficit and take a lead they never relinquished. They tacked on three more runs in the fourth and another in the seventh to pull away to victory, despite being held hitless the first time through the batting order. The Eagles (21-9) relied on a heavy dose of off-speed pitches against the vaunted Warriors lineup, but as the game went on the victors showed they could adapt and find ways to get the job done.

“The second time around, my guys adjust,” Warriors manager Miguel Cuello said. “I knew we were coming back, and they adjusted.”

Eighth-grader Irving Carter made the start for the Warriors, although he did not carry himself like the youngster that he is. The right-hander went five strong innings to earn the victory, allowing two earned runs on six hits while striking out four. Making only his second start of the season in the biggest game of his life, Carter admitted to feeling some nerves. Yet he persevered through those jitters to make his first career high school victory something he could never forget.

The Eagles were aggressive against the young hurler right away to grab a 1-0 lead in the bototm of the first. Colin Curtis and William Rosado lined back-to-back singles to center field to start the frame and Trenton Brickhouse drilled a shot deep to right field for an RBI single.

A pivotal turning point came in the bottom of the second with the Eagles threatening to break the game open. Beau Maples lined a lead-off double past third base, then advanced to third on a ground out to first base. Edel Morales got a grounder up the middle, but Warriors shortstop Kaeber Rog gunned it home for catcher Lernix Williams to apply the tag. Morales stole second base before Curtis lined a single to shallow center field, where Morales raced around third as Tyler Hall rifled the ball to Williams. Morales collided with the backstop as he attempted to score, driving over Williams at the plate. But the catcher raised his glove and ensured the umpire of the out.

“When Tyler got the ball I just knew that he has a really good arm, so him loading up to throw like that I knew I could put a good tag on him,” Williams said. “It just so happened that he trucked me, but I was able to hold onto the ball. I didn’t know if he knew that I had the ball or not, because I knew the umpire saw me fall down. But I had to make sure that we got the out, and we did, and the momentum switched right there. After that play Tyler got us hyped, everyone got hyped and that was when we started to put runs on the board.”

The first four batters reached base in the fourth to turn things around for the Warriors. Bertram Murray reached on an error, Tiburcio lined a double into left field and Rog got them on the board with an RBI single to center. David Yourke was next with a single to center that plated two and Hall chipped in an RBI double to left to make it 4-1 in their favor.

The Eagles responded in the fifth to cut the deficit in half. Morales singled, advanced on a passed ball and then crossed the plate thanks to an RBI single from Curtis, who went 3-for-4 on the night.

The Warriors pulled away with three runs in the sixth. Yourke scored on an RBI single from Sherson Randt, who later scored on a wild pitch, and Hall also scored from an RBI ground out from Serwin Kastaneer. Rog chipped in one last run in the seventh when he came in on a sac-fly RBI from Randt.

Collin Curtis was 3-for-4 with an RBI and run for the Eagles.

The Eagles refused to go quietly even when down to their final swings. Morales connected for his second hit of the game and worked his way around the bases to come in on a sac-fly RBI from Daniel Nugent. But the rally ended after that as reliever Christian Mracna induced a fly ball to left field for the final out.

Facing adversity is nothing new for the team, and it has made them battle-tested and determined to fight to the very last out every single time. The team hit a rough patch late in the season, but turned it on in the playoffs to make another run to the state tournament.

“It’s a tough area where we come from and we live behind the eight ball,” Maples said. “It’s a lot to say about Trinity and it’s something that we pride ourselves on that we don’t quit and don’t ever give up.”

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