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Trinity Christian Stopped By Calvary In 4A State Semifinal

Junior starter Dylan Simmons carried the Conquerors into the seventh inning, allowing two earned runs while striking out six.

Winning a state championship is an incredibly hard accomplishment. Earning a chance to go back and defend that title for another one is very rare and special. But the Calvary Christian Warriors are a rare and special program on an unprecedented run that now has the club right where it wanted to be. Following a gritty, 2-1 victory over the Trinity Christian Academy Conquerors, Calvary advanced into Thursday’s Class 4A state championship at Hammond Stadium in Fort Myers.

The Warriors improved to 30-0 and extended their winning streak to 60 games dating back to the start of the 2017 season. They will now put that streak on the line for all the marbles against the Calvary Christian Eagles. The sister school from Fort Lauderdale defeated Benjamin 3-1 in the other semifinal to set up a highly-anticipated showdown between the two clubs that won the last two 4A titles.

“I don’t think anybody that plays high school baseball in Florida can imagine that anybody can have a sixty-game win streak,” Trinity Christian manager Gil Morales said. “What they are doing, like I told them, God has His hand on them and it’s their time. I’m excited for them; it’s part of history. At some point it will end, but right now you ride that wave as long as you can. Greg Olsen is doing a great job keeping his kids focused.”

The Warriors struck for the deciding run in the top of the fifth inning. Eric Kennedy was hit by a pitch, stole second and advanced to third base on a wild pitch to get into excellent scoring position. Matheu Nelson then lined a shot to left field for an RBI double, a shot hit so hard it officially registered a 109 exit velocity.

“I was just going up there and I wasn’t trying to do too much,” Nelson said. “Before in the game I was trying to do more than I could, and I kind of saw that on my first swing of that at bat. He threw me a breaking ball first pitch for a ball, then he came right back with another one down the middle. It had a sharp, late break on it so I took a big swing and my head flew off. I knew I just needed to stay down, so i got my load back and I just read the pitches.”

The Warriors celebrate at home plate during a scoring play in the third inning.

Kennedy also scored Calvary’s other run in the third inning. The center fielder drew a walk, Christian Cairo then walked but was erased on a fielder’s choice from Nelson, and Justin Bench delivered an RBI double that pushed Kennedy across the plate. Nelson also came in on the play, but was ruled out after failing to touch the plate, which Conquerors starter Dylan Simmons was quick to notice and react to by getting the ball and recording the out by stepping on home.

The Conquerors (20-9) then answered back with a score in the fourth that tied things up at a run apiece. Facing tough left-handed Warrior Nolan Hudi, scoring chances were not easy to come by. Although the Conquerors managed six hits off Hudi, his dominance with the changeup paved the way for 12 strikeouts and nearly enough pitches for him to go the distance. But after Dylan Simmons connected for a double to right field leading off the fourth, Trevor Chilsom drove him in with an RBI single to right field.

“He was throwing his changeup well the whole game, and he was throwing it low and away the whole game,” Chilsom said. “Coach gave me a great approach when he said to look low and away, and all I did was sit low and away. I got lucky too; he threw me a curveball in that same spot and he hung it a little bit so I just drove it to left field, first pitch. Before that at bat they kind of felt like an invincible object, that we couldn’t break them. That at bat showed that they had flaws and they could be beaten.”

With Hudi at the pitch limit one out short of the victory, the Warriors turned to junior Josh Emerson. The right-hander issued a walk to Conner Aldrich, but then induced a liner to second base that finished things off.

“At the end of the day, I always tell our kids to give us an opportunity to tie or win the game and I thought they did that in the last inning,” Morales said. “I think we had a good approach on the lefty and he was everything we thought he would be. He’s relentless. He kept coming with that changeup and he’d throw it at any time he wanted to.”

The Conquerors cheer one another on during their late rally attempt.

The way Dylan pitched also gave the Conquerors its chances. The junior struck out six in six-and-a-third innings of work before he reached the pitch limit. He allowed two earned runs on three hits and three walks, and he admitted after the game that he felt comfortable right out of the gate throwing on such a nice Major League mound.

Trinity played a schedule as challenging as any again this season. The club hosted during the Tournament of Champions and also traveled to Las Vegas to play in the esteemed Bishop Gorman Classic, where they faced host Bishop Gorman in the tournament semifinals.

“Traveling the nation and going and playing everyone that is good definitely prepared us for this game,” Dylan said. “We knew that we were going to get Calvary sooner or later, and facing Bishop Gorman and staying in that game we knew that we could hang in there with anybody. As long as we have good hitting, good defense and good pitching, we’re going to be unstoppable. We just came up short this time, but nothing to hang your hat on.”

Coach Morales noted how impressed and grateful he was for what his team accomplished this season. After graduating a lot of high-caliber players the past two seasons, including four MLB draft picks, a younger group with less experience came together this season to bring the Conquerors back to the state Final Four for the first time since winning it all back in the 2015 season.

“I told them back in August that to turn this thing around and get back to here was going to be one of the hardest things you’ll ever do in life,” Morales said. “We had a bunch of guys who had never played, and we can count on our hand how many starters we had returning from last year. I’m going to miss our seniors that we had. They did a great job with a small group of seniors to lead this team and get us back to where a lot of people never thought we could get.”

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