Providence Battles But Can’t Hold Off Calvary Christian
The 3A classification might be the toughest in all of Florida, which explains why it took 10 full innings to complete Friday’s Class 3A state semifinal between the Calvary Christian Warriors and the Providence Stallions.
The Warriors finally broke through in the top of the 10th thanks to a Liam Peterson (Florida) single up the middle that scored Andrew Tess. Peterson also took over for starter Hunter Dietz (Arkansas) in the fifth inning and pitched until he hit the limit (105) for his age group.
“I was pretty much just sitting curveball,” Peterson said. “He threw Landen (Maroudis) pretty much all curveballs except for one or two, so I was just waiting for the curveball and he threw me one first pitch and I saw it.”
Justin Mayes added a crucial insurance run with a double to right field immediately after Peterson’s go-ahead knock. The Stallions scored a run in the bottom of the frame, so Mayes’ RBI ended up being the decisive run in Calvary’s 5-4 victory. He also drove in a run in the sixth to tie the game at three.
“Every run matters,” Mayes said. “I mean, we’re out there fighting. We’re brothers. We put the work in all year and these guys, I would die for them. So, I’m fighting for ’em. That’s my mindset every time.”
Mayes ended up closing out the game for Calvary after Peterson reached 105 pitches. He needed just nine pitches to wrap up the win and get the Warriors out of the grueling sun for a while before going for it all on Saturday.
Starter Hunter Dietz admitted that the weather got to him early, which explains a walked-in run during the first inning. He settled in after that, though, at least until Brooks Hicken got to him for a leadoff double in the fifth. A walk put Andrew Johnson on the bases as well, and then Liam O’Neill blasted a double to score both and lose a then 2-1 lead.
“As good a juice as any high school player I’ve ever seen, and I’m starting to get old, man,” Stallions manager Tommy Boss joked. “This is like my 16th or 17th season coaching high school or college and he has as much juice as anyone I’ve ever seen. When the ball hits his bat, it’s going. We moved him into the three-hole a few weeks ago. I wanted him to put a little pressure on teams in the first inning, and he’s excelled.”
Providence also saw a strong pitching performance from its starter, Kyle Powers, and reliever Brett Dennis. Dennis needed 78 pitches to get through six innings for the Stallions, allowing just one earned run along the way.
“I just wanted to go compete and give my boys one more game together as a team for the seniors out there,” Dennis said. “We battled, but it’s tough.”
Providence might not have finished the season on top of 3A, but it’s been seven years since the program’s last final-four appearance. It’s hard to call the 2023 season anything but a total success for Providence, and that’s not lost on the team’s first-year manager.
“I’ve got nine seniors here that have put so much into the Providence program,” Boss said. “Me being a newcomer this season, they kind of bought into me, and it’s been nothing but a blessing. These guys are so good at baseball, I just kind of stayed back and let them play the game and the result was 25 wins.”
For Calvary Christian, a matchup with two-time reigning state champs North Broward Prep stands in the way of glory. With Dietz and Peterson unavailable, the Warriors are down two elite arms, but that shouldn’t be a problem.
“We’re very fortunate to be able to lean on (the pitching staff) and we have throughout the year,” Warriors manager Greg Olsen said. “It just seems like when we’re talking about who’s next as a staff, it just gives us such flexibility to play some matchup that isn’t common in high school.”
The Class 3A state championship is on Saturday at 2 p.m.