The Clearwater Central Catholic baseball team lost just four games all season. One of those defeats was to Tuesday night's regional semifinal opponent Calvary Christian.
But behind the arm of starting pitcher David Paul, the Marauders downed their district rival once again, 7-1.
CCC (24-4) will advance to the regional finals on Friday in West Palm Beach to face King's Academy.
This was the fourth time this season that the Marauders faced the Warriors (22-7), with CCC winning three of those contests, including a win in the Class 3A District 9 tournament.
“We know Calvary’s got a good program and they got good players," said CCC head coach Todd Vaughan. “Both games [in this year's regional tournament] were kind of a fight to start out with.”
The Marauders took an early lead in the bottom of the first inning when center fielder Johnny Karaphillis delivered a single to shallow center field. Starting pitcher Nate Reed balked advancing Karaphillis to second. He would then score the first run of the game after a single by second baseman Derek Gibree and a sacrifice fly to center field by 3rd baseman Brendan Overton.
Both teams would battle it out between the second and fourth innings. With Reed and Paul having a mixture of pitches to work with.
“I try to mix it up as much as I can,” said Paul. “If I’m up in the count, I throw a lot of curve balls...fast balls whenever I’m down in the count. I just throw whatever I got to throw the hitter off the best that I can. I just try to be as consistent as I can to throw strikes.”
But the game would turn in a brief moment in favor of Calvary.
On the 0-1 pitch, Reed delivered a solo home run to center field at the 360 mark. The score would be tied in the fifth inning 1-1, but Calvary’s celebration would short lived.
The Marauders started their march in the bottom of the sixth inning. After a pop out to center field by Gibree, Overton sent a grounder to shortstop Dylan Stark, but Stark overthrew first baseman Grant McDaniel, allowing Overton to advance to second. Reed walked Paul, as CCC brought in Zuriel Collins as a courtesy runner for Paul. Catcher Andrew Mink then delivered a line drive single to right field bringing in Overton to score to make it 2-1.
Jeff Smith would be courtesy runner for Mink, bringing up left fielder Andrew Murphy to the plate, who delivered a single to bring in Smith and Collins making it a 4-1 ballgame.
Reed would get pulled after six innings and 98 pitches. CCC would gain two more runs in the bottom of the sixth inning off Daniel Broeseker making the score 7-1.
At this point, Vaughan felt comfortable on what the outcome of the game would be.
“When we got up 7-1, I felt pretty confident we weren’t going to give up six runs to tie this game and go into extra innings,” said Vaughan. “I have been here a long time and have seen some funny things happen, but I figured it was not going to happen tonight.”
Paul prevented any Warriors from getting on base the rest of the way earning the win for CCC.
For head Coach Greg Olsen of the Warriors, the end of the season brings much hope for next year.
“It was a very tight game up until the sixth inning,” said Olsen. “It’s baseball and sometimes things happen. This team and these players have committed to making this program solid and they work hard every day. Our seniors have a special place in my heart. David Paul and the rest of that team are solid baseball players and I wish them the best of luck on Friday.”
For Vaughan, going into the game on Friday, he wants to make sure his players are ready.
“We are going to do like we always do,” said Vaughan. “We can sit there and say that were going to scout another team, but first and foremost I got to make sure that my guys are going to be able to do what they know how to do. I’m more worried about what my guys are going to do and not about what the other team is going to do.”