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University Christian Falls 4-1 To Canterbury In 3A Final

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Winning a state championship is no easy task. Coming back to do it again can be even tougher, as being a defending state champion carries a large target on your back. But that was exactly what the Canterbury Cougars accomplished this season, as the team earned a 4-1 win over University Christian in Saturday’s 3A state championship at Hammond Stadium in Fort Myers.

Senior Cooper Swanson made his final high school game something to never forget, as the senior tossed the one and only complete-game of his entire baseball life. Swanson only allowed one unearned run while his offense strung together enough support to make the Cougars champions once again. The right-hander locked in to a pitcher’s duel with the Christians’ Alejandro Visaez, who also went the distance. Visaez struck out five in six innings, while allowing seven hits and a walk.

“I think today out guys played pretty good, but they were just the better team today,” University Christian manager Daryl Bizier said. “Jose pitched good and had pretty good command, but they just hit it when they needed and we made a couple of mistakes. We had opportunities a few times with runners on base, and who knows if a two-out hit would have changed the game. But their kid pitched really well against us.”

Canterbury drew first blood in the bottom of the first inning. Cooper Swanson lined a single up the middle and just past the diving second baseman, and courtesy-runner Nick Vanderhof came onto the base paths and quickly stole second. Sam Keating followed with a base knock to right field for runners on the corners and Tyler Shuck drove Vanderhof home with a sac-fly RBI on a shot deep to center field.

Swanson got the Cougars going again in the third, as he started off the frame with a base hit to center and advanced into scoring position thanks to a sacrifice bunt from Giovanni DiGiacomo. Nick Vanderhof came in again to run for Swanson, and quickly raced around third to score off a throwing error following a single past the second baseman from Keating. Keating advanced to second on the miscue, stole third and came home on an RBI single from Tyler Shuck.

The Christians (20-9) responded to get on the scoreboard in the top of the fourth. Visaez dropped a double into shallow center field, and gave way to courtesy-runner Kyle LaCross. Dylan Richman then connected for an infield chopper that allowed LaCross to round third and score to make it a 3-1 deficit.

Visaez had nice command of his slider, the two-seam and four-seam fastball, and he used the fastballs early on. As the contest wore on he started pitching backwards and got the Cougars off-balance to keep his club in it and give the offense a chance. Even though the batters were not able to find success against Swanson to mount a rally, there was no shame in defeat.

“When you’re playing this type of game, you just have to give it 150%, and that adrenaline is what helped me,” Visaez said. “It was great and it was a great experience. I feel proud for every single player on my team. They did their job. When you give more than 100%, it doesn’t hurt.”

Canterbury added one last run to inch ahead in the fifth. Swanson was hit by a pitch and then stole second, where Vanderhof again came in to run for him. DiGiacomo then dropped down a great bunt that went for base hit since the third baseman was playing back. Keating then reached on an error that loaded the bases and Giovanny Lorenzo reached off another error that plated the final run.

Coming from a tough region, the Christians know how hard it is to reach the state tournament. This group accomplished it for the first time in 27 years, and a large group of juniors will get another chance to come back and write their dream ending.

“This was a really, good experience. We did what most teams didn’t do and it was a really good experience,” Visaez said. “I just want to let you know that we will be back here next year too.”

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